Retaliation, Vengeance and VeggieTales

How do we respond to those who mistreat us? With vengeance? With love?

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I posted recently about my experiences with bullying and why Christians should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I stand by that post still, but there's one part of the story I mentioned, but I feel deserves an extended look. Today, I'd like to talk about retaliation (or taking revenge). 

I'd like to direct your attention to an episode of VeggieTales. I can't help seeing the comparison here— I grew up basically addicted to the show (though not understanding the lessons until much later). The episode I'd like to refer to today is Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush

This episode was a parody of Indiana Jones (obviously) and it even had a theme song performed by THE CHARLIE DANIELS. No joke. https://youtu.be/CVoIkzGMnwM

In the episode, Larry (or Minnesota, I guess) tries to get back at his jerk nemesis, Professor Rattan, by bullying him back. He learns that if you bully a bully, that makes you a bully. When you say something mean back or hurt them back, you're stooping down to that level. You're now no better than them. It's the same reason Batman refuses to kill— it's crossing a line, and it means you're just as bad as those persecuting you. It's pretty meaty stuff for a VeggieTales episode, and I recommend you watch it.

When we're on the receiving end of abuse, our instinctive reaction is to retaliate. We start shooting back. When kids would pick on me, I'd pick back harder, and then I would get in trouble. Granted, the teachers weren't doing anything to help the issue (just perpetuating more by turning a blind eye to the cause of the issue), but they were right to get onto me for what I did. I can't remember where I heard it from, but I learned recently that we can't control our surroundings or what happens to us. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things. I'm not victimizing myself here— wrong was done to me, but I'll be the first to admit I wasn't innocent in the situation, either.

Back when I was being bullied, my hands weren't clean. I had even been a bully to others who didn't attack me first. Once you have a mindset of vengeance and retaliation, you begin to just attack everybody. Lines are blurred, and eventually you're picking fights with people who didn't really do anything  to you. Going back to the Batman analogy, it's a line you cross. Once you cross the line one time, it gets easier to cross the next time. And then easier the next time. And the next time. You get the picture. 

I read recently in Bob Goff's book Love Does that it's much easier to get defensive if you live with clenched fists. He offers that we instead lives with our palms up, because it's much harder to get defensive with your palms up. As Christians, we are supposed to be a light in the darkness. If we use Satan's tactics and try to get vengeance on those who wrong us, we're no better than them. What should we do instead, you ask? Kill them with kindness. Proverbs 25:21-22 says:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. 

If you react lovingly and nonviolently, your enemies will see that there's something different about you. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How about we start now? Two wrongs never make a right, but if you choose to do right to those who do you wrong, Christ's love and light shines through you. 

Lift People Up Instead of Tearing Them Down

In elementary school, I was bullied pretty hard. I was convinced that I was not good enough. That I was a failure. I was too short. I was too weak. I’d try to tell my teachers what was going on, but they didn’t care. Saving my sanity and my soul wasn’t part of their job description. So, they did nothing. The bullying continued. Just about all of my friends left. Those that didn’t— well, let’s just say they weren’t good company. They made disgusting, perverted remarks all the time, and I knew something was wrong. So I walked away.

The problem now was that I had nobody left. So, I began to sit alone at recess, with a clipboard and piece of paper. It was then I began to draw seriously. God used that dark time for good— I became serious about drawing. I’d always drawn growing up, but now I began to imagine whole worlds and stories. This was an important beginning. Back then, I didn’t see how God was using this situation. All I saw was that I was reviled and hated. So, I sat alone in the playground. Nobody told me there was a God I could turn to. I was in church, but I didn’t really hear what they were saying.

The bullying put me on an emotional roller coaster. I began to lash back at them verbally. My teachers only saw that, so I began to get into trouble. What I’d told them about what the other kids were doing didn’t matter. These teachers would act like they cared for me, but when I needed them they turned their backs. These weren’t bad people, but they had better things to do at the time than worry about one of their students going through hell on their watch. I quickly became a trainwreck, thinking that nobody really cared, and anything even slightly demeaning (even if it was just a joke) put me either in a defensive rage or a tearful meltdown. Even mild rudeness would push me over the edge. This happened throughout 5th and 6th grade. 

Last night, at a church event, somebody said something that made all these memories flood back this morning. What this person said was unprovoked and was very rude and offensive, as this person attacked my appearance. This wasn’t the first time it happened either— it’s a pretty regular occurence. I came home confused and offended. I forgave the offender, but I was confused. This person is a Christian— don’t Christians know better than this? 

Jesus commanded us to love one another. What this person said was hurtful. If we are to follow His commands, we must stop treating others like they are yesterday’s trash. We must stop saying intentionally offensive things to others. You can’t be a Christian bully. Build your siblings in Christ up— don’t tear them down. Words can either bring life or death. Choose to use your words to bring life. If you say you’re a Christian, and in the next breath put somebody down, you’re showing the opposite of God’s love— you’re working for the Enemy’s purposes. Show God’s love in all you do and say. Watch what you say. Build others up instead of tearing them down.