My ears twitched back, my mind cringed, my heart hammered, and my fists at my side lost color because they tightened so much. Sound dramatic? This was actually a normal day at school. I was standing in the lunch line when overheard two not-so-pleasant boys talk about a girl in the most carnal and foul way. Being raised with three older sisters I know that respecting woman is of paramount importance. I wanted to do nothing less than to pin him against a wall and tell him how wrong he was and to let everyone know the error of his ways.
What did I actually do? Nothing.
I regret not saying something (as I will soon explain); however, doing nothing was also appropriate because I might have been too angry to say the right things (The wisdom of the word’s of my aunt’s refrigerator magnet have taught me well, “Anger is the wind that blows out the lamp of the mind.” Robert Green Ingersoll)
There are two things I have learned that we can and should do when someone offends us or does us wrong:
The first is to be kind. A while ago I was hanging out with my friends, just talking and joking, and my friend said something that I followed up with a rude joke just to tease him. Although no feelings were hurt, his reaction left an impact on me forever. He offered me a high five and said something along the lines of, “thanks man!” It was more than obvious that he was not complimenting the humor of my joke, or offering sarcasm, rather he returned my disrespect with kindness. I felt so foolish. He was being an example of Christ.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “38 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Since that day I have strived to return any form of disrespect with love, but I am far from perfect. I often say to myself, “I may be right, but am I kind?” It isn’t easy but we can always count on the Lord to help us if we choose to avoid contention.
The second thing I learned in the face of offense is to have courage and to stand for what you believe in. God doesn’t expect us to stand idly by while the world persecutes the church and its members. When King Darius signed the decree that no one could pray, Daniel still prayed and thanked the Lord. He did not waiver when the world was against him and in return the Lord delivered him from the lion’s den. One of my favorite stories of Joseph Smith is when he was taken to Liberty Jail and was chained in terrible conditions with five other saints (I’ll paraphrase the account of Elder Parley P. Pratt). The guards were boasting of their recent attacks on the Saints, including acts of robbery, rape, and murder. Joseph rose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder the following words, “SILENCE. … In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!” The guards lowered their weapons, shrank into a corner, and asked for his forgiveness. There are times when we need to be bold and stand for the truth.
If I could go back to when I was standing in that lunch line I would have told the two boys how inappropriate their language was and that women deserve more respect. The world is declining morally and because of that conflicts will arise. I encourage everyone that when opposition confronts you to be prepared with a strong testimony and to be bold, but do not belittle; be kind, but not submitting; have faith and not fear. And if you ever find yourself so frustrated and angry you think you can’t turn the other cheek and or show kindness remember the hymn Did You Think to Pray? with its lyrics: “When your heart was filled with anger, Did you think to pray? Did you plead for grace, my brother, That you might forgive another Who had crossed your way?”