When teaching about self-control in relationships, I ask my students to write a story about exercising this fruit of the Spirit — or not — in order to see its virtue. One student, Laura, wrote of a situation that escalated with her roommate, Meg.
Laura said she could not even remember what the topic was about, but that it started with “snappy remarks.” Laura's temper was escalating quickly, as was Meg’s. Things got worse as emotions spilled into actions, and voices were raised. Soon they were shouting and screaming, and then it happened: Laura gently pushed Meg away, and Meg pushed back. Pushing turned to shoving until Meg got so mad she took a swing at Laura and punched her face. Laura fought back and wrestled Meg to the ground, trying desperately “to win.” In calm relief, later, Laura admitted, “I failed miserably to exercise self-control. I went with my gut to fight.”
Has your gut ever told you to fight? Perhaps someone offended you with comments or deeds. Maybe you felt belittled or taunted. Like Laura, you felt justified — in your gut — to pay back your offender. To keep things even. An eye for an eye…
Jesus tells of a better way — to let it go, to not fight back, to do the opposite of what is expected. Better to love your enemy by walking away, absorbing the pain. Such an “upside down” way to respond!
Dear God, this is a difficult teaching because I would rather fight. Help me hold my tongue and avoid aggressive actions that could make a difficult situation uglier. Help me trust that turning my cheek is a better way — the same way Jesus responded to his accusers — in order to bring healing and restoration to the world. Amen.
Throughout this Day: When confronted, most people respond with a flight or fight response. Neither resolves the issue. Ponder why Jesus’ way is better. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart toward those who offend you and for the power to obey this command.
Additional Resources: Here is some good advice from Dr. David Currie on how to forgive your spouse when they hurt you. It also works with roommates, coworkers, siblings, or anyone else. More in Love is a collection of devotionals written to help couples love God, themselves and others more.