When Not to Suffer in Silence

The other day my two eldest girls had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fight.  It was awful.  The kind of fight that makes you wonder what kind of derelict mother is raising them and/or pray that they have no younger siblings to ruin with their atrocious examples of behavior.


I don’t remember what it was about anymore.  They barely remembered what it was about halfway through their brawl.  And a brawl it was.

“She said this and then I did this and then she responded with this and….blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”  The part that struck me, and stuck with me, is that the younger one, who is smaller and not as strong, was apparently doing something to the elder one, who is much larger and stronger, “for a really long time” and it “really hurt” and she “wouldn’t stop.”

And besides worrying for the fate of their immortal souls and praying for the Holy Spirit to intervene and somehow take control of the situation for me, all I could think was “If it really hurt so badly, why did you let her keep doing it?”

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of the discussions and apologies and prayers and consequences that followed but I’ll confess that my elder daughter’s willingness to be the victim weighed heavily on me.  She could have easily pulled her arm away.  If not that, she could have easily called for help- I was just two rooms away, after all.  Perhaps she wanted to make sure that her sister was so clearly in the wrong that she was willing to endure the discomfort of a tight bicep squeeze “for a really long time”.  Perhaps she wanted the satisfaction of not being the one in trouble. Perhaps she really thought she needed to suffer in silence.  I don’t know.

What I do know is this: playing the martyr, turning the other cheek, suffering in silence- these are not free passes to salvation.

Since the day of their epic battle, I’ve been pondering this.  Puzzling over it.  Praying for some divine inspiration and just enough wisdom that they’re not worse off for having lived with me for 18 years once they step out of my doors.  When are we called to “turn the other cheek” or “suffer in silence” and when are we called to stand up for our ourselves and our God-given dignity?  The answer to either cannot be always nor can it be never.  I just couldn’t figure out when to do each one.

When the answer finally came yesterday, like a flash into my heart, it was a wonderful, fabulous “duh” kind of moment.  Because the answer was not only simple, it was the same exact answer I get all the dang time (I’m a slow learner, what can I say.).  And that answer is: it’s not about me.

It’s not about me.

None of this is about me.  Or her.  Or you.  It’s only about God and our relationship with Him.

So, if suffering in silence will bring us or our family member or our friend closer to God, will improve or help re-start a relationship with Him, then it’s the right thing to do.  If turning the other cheek shows another person God’s love personified, His willingness to die for our sins and keep loving us despite, well, everything, then it’s the right thing to do.

Take parenting for example.  And I use this example because it’s pretty much the only thing I have any experience with these days.  Parenting and managing hard water stains.  So parenting.  We might not love, you know, folding the laundry.  In fact, folding the clean laundry and putting it away might be the very worst chore we can think of.  We may have so many piles and baskets of clean laundry stacked in the den that people can no longer find clean, seasonally appropriate clothing in their closets.  They have to dig through the piles just to find something, anything, not covered in the remnants of last night’s dinner.

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Dwija Borobia lives with her husband and their five kids in rural southwest Michigan in a fixer-upper they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens, she pretends her time on the internet doesn’t count because she uses the computer standing up. You can read more on her blog house unseen. life unscripted.

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  • Rhonda Ortiz

    Excellent post, Dwija.  Spot on.

  • jen

    I love that you wrote about this subject! We forget that no matter what our problems whether its our children or our marriage or whatever we should never forget that God has the answers for us all we have to do is ask. 

    Isn’t it the truth that most of us just ask our parents or friend of advise and stop at that? 

  • Erica

     Thank you! I have struggled so often with this question and this is the only answer I have ever come across that makes sense to me.  I also think that you must have peeked in my window last night while I was (grudgingly) folding my eleven loads of laundry. Absolute, terrible, horrible, stupid, least favorite job…next time I’ll try doing it with gratitude and a smile 🙂

  • What an excellent way of explaining this distinction.  Thank you!
    Someone Who At This Very Moment Has Three Giant Loads of Laundry in the Living Room Waiting to Be Folded.

  • Les Botchar

    so beautifully explained.    My Sunday School class today just learned about how God is merciful – patient and slow to anger.   But that doesn’t mean that He does not get angry, or continue to let our sin go unchecked.  God will preserve His righteousness and special dignity by bringing us back to right relationship with Him.   And so we to one another.
    And I did 5 loads of laundry this weekend.  I confress to grumbling.  But mostly because every single item of children’s clothes was inside out.  S’sly?  what’s up with that?  

  •  It is the WORST chore ever on the face of the earth.  Hands down.  Give me 12 dirty toilets that I can make sparkle over one load of clean laundry to be folded! 

  •  Remembering to ask God for His advice is really such a challenge for me.  I’ve gotten better over the last two years but I still have a looooong way to go.  Keep me in line, Jen!

  • There seems to be a consensus on this laundry thing….

  • erica

    I can’t “like” this one enough!  Beautiful.

  • Virg

    What a difficult subject to tackle.  You are wise for your years, Dee!

  • Barb

    Dwija, thank you for sharing your family’s example.  I think you hit the nail on the head when you made the final question about God instead of ourselves or others.  Thank you for this timely reminder.  I know this, yet I too am a slow learner.  

    God bless you!

  • Audrey

    This post truly struck home with me. Recently, after decades of quietly taking the emotional and verbal abuse of an extended family member (to keep the peace), I stood up to him and dared to challenge him. The reaction of this individual was not pretty. However, I have vowed to never again allow this person to bully or disrespect me or my family.

    You covered the topic in such a clear and understandable way from a Christian perspective. Thank you for this gift of clarity.  

  • Oh Audrey, thank you for your courage and for sharing your story here.  Bless you and your family!

  • Pedersenmattr

    Maybe laundry wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t insist on folding towels in a very specific way. Just shove ‘me in the bathroom closet I what I say!

  • This is a wonderful post. As a volunteer working in a different country it’s frequently tough and I’m never quite sure where the line is between being too assertive and being too passive. I think you have hit it on the head here — there is a time for suffering in silence and definitely a time where it does good for no one! And that should be the guide… does our action or saying something bring us all closer to love and compassion?  Thanks for sharing.

  •  If only I had a closet to hide them in!  They are in full view at all times, my friend.  Thus the towel neurosis 😉

  • steph

    Oh Dweej, I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED this post… I think i need to print it out and keep a copy of it in my Bible to go back to over and over again…. and of course pray that Annabelle and her soon to be brother learn this lesson a lot sooner than I have (thanks to you) 

  • Mary @ Better Than Eden

    Love this!  Thank you!!

  • Cathmom2five

    Rockin. I’m sharing this.