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.