Friday, March 12, 2010

Ready, Fire, Aim

Did you read that correctly? Yep. Today is the Retaliating Tongue.

First Peter 3:9 says, "Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it."

In other words, retaliating is NOT Godly. A truly "victorious" response would be humility, compassion, and glory to God.

The author of 30 Days to Taming the Tongue says she has really struggled with this one and writes, "I suspect I will not always bat a thousand in this area in every situation; however, I know that if I strike out, it will be because I have ignored the urging of the Holy Spirit and made a conscious decision to take God's job by returning the punishment." (emphasis mine)

My son is in 7th grade. Because he is very tall, he has a physical presence that protects him from older students who want to be obnoxious to the younger ones. Yet, there are students who will push the envelope with him just to see what he'll do. His middle school is very racially diverse but not very successfully integrated between the groups of students.  A while back he was chuckling when he told me about a kid who is very 'tough' who purposely shouldered him out of the way in the hall one day, looked at him, and snarled, "move, white boy!" I raised my eyebrows and my son said, "so I held my ground and said, 'no, you move, Shorty." I was so relieved he had been smarter than to return the color insult I didn't think much about it at that moment.  But because we were going somewhere in the car (and so he was trapped) I revisited the issue and asked, "how could you have handled that differently in a way that glorified the Lord?"

He proceeded to explain to me (you know all moms are stupid, right?) the hierarchy of power in middle school and how you can't just let people roll over you because they just ratchet up the pressure.  I asked, "kind of like what his enemies did to Jesus?"  Big sigh and slump into his seat.

So that was a pretty easy conversation to have because it only involved him. But what about the other day when, during an assembly, a kid behind him was poking him with a pencil. He asked the kid to stop a couple of times and then finally turned around, grabbed the kid's hand and took the pencil away. When I told him to keep his hands off other kids, he said, "mom, he was doing it to (my son's friend) first. And he's a lot smaller than me." This friend is smaller and has some special needs that make him very emotionally sensitive. He also doesn't have my son's advantage of height and confidence. So, when I asked the mom question, "how could you have handled that differently in a way that glorified the Lord?" his reply was that there was no other way and outrage that I would let him leave his friends undefended. I tried to point out that he didn't take the pencil away until it was being done to him, but his outrage button was on "HIGH" so there was no enlightenment. For every "but mom," I got, I replied, "keep your hands off other students." We both finally ran out of energy - but it still wasn't resolved. I just know I'm going to get a call someday from the office that he's been suspended for something like this that escalates.

I really don't know how to advise him other than to keep reminding him that He is a living testimony and to behave that way.  I'm interested in what you all think. He doesn't feel particularly inclined to reach out to the other community in his school. By the time they're in high school those lines will be firmly drawn. How should the adults be doing things differently in order to integrate these communities?

Lord, help us as parents to guide these young people your way. Give us tools and perseverance to help them love the unlovely. Make me sensitive today to my tendency to retaliate, even if it's only in my head.

**The link to the book above is just for convenience. It is not linked in any way that will produce benefit or remuneration for me.


quilly said...

I used to be very good at this and I still have my cutting moments, but thankfully, nowadays it takes a lot of goading (weeks) to get me to say something cutting.

Anonymous said...

Oh I can speak evil so quickly it makes my head spin LOL I really have to try and watch this and the older I get the better I'm becoming of hold it back LOL :) Not all the time mind you :)