Revenge. That was the only thought on my mind if I had any thoughts at all. You don’t tend to think very clearly when your body is surging with a sudden adrenaline dump. All I knew was an empowering rage surging through me, and it felt as if nothing could stop me.
The only clear thought I remember having during that thirty seconds of chaos was the surprising revelation that I couldn’t feel any pain. I was running barefoot across the hot, sharp rocks on the side of my house, and I didn’t feel anything. I had just been hit with a door and thrown to the concrete, but I didn’t feel pain, only anger.
My cousin and his family had just recently moved to the same town as my family and I. While they were in the middle of this transition, they moved into my family’s house for a few months while they found a place of their own. Having them live with us was fun at first, but as time went on, tensions between my cousin and me grew as neither of us felt like we had our own space. We went from friends to rivals, and on this particular day, we were enemies.
It was another long hot Arizona summer, and my best friend had stayed over the night before. We were all home alone with no place to go and not much to do. Despite the boredom, my friend and I were uninterested in getting along with the new kid in the house. I was standing at the doorframe of my front door while my buddy was standing on the front porch. We went back and forth, asking each other what we should do and wondering what my cousin was doing. That’s when he came running up from behind me out of nowhere and slammed the door on me. I was catapulted out of the door frame and hit the concrete hard. Luckily none of my fingers or toes became caught between the door and the frame.
Up to this point, the peace between us felt strained, but there was relative peace. Now a blow has been struck; this was an explicit declaration of war, and it must not go unanswered. I jumped to my feet and reached the door handle of my front door just in time to hear the lock click. Not only did he commit an act of aggression against me, but he locked me out of my own house. My house! The one he invaded. That’s when the adrenaline-fueled race around the house to the back door began. It’s a race I shouldn’t have been able to win. I “humbly,” think of it as my John McClane moment. The evil terrorist had taken over the building. I was alone against impossible odds and barefoot!
Ok, so it’s not exactly like the movie “Die Hard,” but it’s as close as I’ll ever get. Anyways to my delighted surprise, I reached the back door before my villainess cousin, who was showing a fair amount of surprise on his face as he backed away from my heroic entry.
I curled my hand into a fist, and I was about to swing while shouting “Yippee-Ki-Yay,” when suddenly, the phone rang. I was thrown out of my bloodthirsty rage and instinctively answered the phone to my aunt, calling to check up on us. So the villain narrowly escaped in typical action-movie fashion. Or maybe the hero got away, and I was the real villain? We always consider ourselves the hero of our story, but are we?
We are treated wrongly, so we treat others wrongly, but it’s justified because we do it from a position of hurt. We hurt others, but it’s ok because we are hurt. This doesn’t always come out in the form of physical violence. It is often just bitterness that we allow to grow in our hearts — resentment that we feel justified in harboring, and maybe we are justified in it, yet the only thing it does is spread that pain to others.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” We live in a world where it is impossible not to be offended. It’s also impossible not to offend anyone, no matter how hard we might try. Everyone is hurt, and as a result, we all end up hurting others.
I want to encourage you today to let it go as the scripture tells us to be slow to anger and overlook an offense. In other words, lighten up. I know this is not easy to put into practice when there is so much hurt around us, but as long as we are focused on our hurt, that is all we can see. We get so focused on what someone else has said or done that we can no longer see what we are saying or doing, which might permeate that same hurt to others.
It’s like an adrenaline dump that shields us from the pain we are experiencing. We become so hurt we don’t even realize we are hurting others. We can’t change other people’s actions but we can choose how to respond. We can be slow to anger and let go of the offense. We can stop seeing ourselves as the ultimate victim/hero and ask God to help us to walk in humility as we put the needs and hurts of others above ourselves.
Trevor Rickard is an Associate Pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship.