Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Elephant in the Room

A post I read today by Jonathan Hagger resonated strongly with me in that it dealt with "turning the other cheek".

This is a difficult concept for many of us to come to grips with, since it demands what feels like a totally unnatural response from an incensed and aggrieved individual to the perpetrator of an injustice perceived or real.

In the church community to which I am happy to belong there is an individual whose prime objective in life appears to be upsetting and causing offence to as many people as possible in any one day.

The first time I was the object of such an attack, my response was swift and unthinking.  Angry and unaware of having said anything in any way provocative, I fired back on all cylinders giving as good as I had got.

After the "fiery angel" had departed slamming the door almost off its hinges, there was a brief silence, then, to my amazement a howl of laughter from the two other people in the room.

"Oh dear", said one of them, "you will know better next time".

Understandably annoyed, I asked what on earth they meant, and further, what had I done to deserve it.
Nothing at all they said - almost in unison - you were just in the line of fire and when this particular person is on a 'mission' the only sensible response is none at all.

After witnessing the same treatment being meted out to other unfortunates, who were perceived as easy targets I began slowly to see a pattern emerging, and over quite a long period of time, have learned to accept that this particular individual has no idea of the hurt, anger embarrassment and sheer unpleasantness they create and that the only possible response is indeed silence.

It is not easy when a particularly sharp stone is hurled at  you, on a vulnerable day to maintain an air of total indifference, but it does work, and over a period of time can become your response to all attacks/slights and  has also the great merit of leaving you with the moral high ground.

It is with a bit of hard work, possible to see that the problem lies not with the victim, but with the attacker.


  1. Sometimes I think the attacker needs to be taught or told that his/her actions are wrong. Isn't it our duty as Christians to help others?

  2. A part of me agrees Jane, but in this particular case I see it as an inadequacy almost an illness and since ignoring the attacks seems to work it seems cruel to respond in kind.
    I should add that this person is in most other ways perfectly reasonable and even friendly and kind on occasion.

  3. I may write on this myself later - very good post, with an air of the familiar about it!

  4. Many thanks David. We are I'm sure, on the same wavelength.

  5. My wife has pretty much lost her faith in God because of the actions of bullies in the Church. I persist in mine only because it is protected by my stubbornness. The person who goes around your church throwing his or her weight around sounds like a class one bully to me. The decision to remain silent in response to this person's outbursts may well result in less resolute congregation members leaving your church and even losing their faith. Being responsible, even in part, for a person being separated from God is one of the worst sins we can commit according to Jesus.

  6. I take your point MP, but to tackle head on such people only results in a permanent headache and having to live in a war zone.
    Surely you let the bully win if you rise to the bait every time.
    If everyone allows enough silence to develop around the hurtful words in the end even the bully will be engulfed.

  7. Dare I say Jonathan, one's sanity.

  8. It's helpful to realize that it's that individual who has the problem. However, very hard if we have to deal with them on a regular basis!

  9. Yes, as you say Anita, very difficult, but worth the extra effort if you can manage not to retaliate.
    I do not see this as a form of cowardice but more a strategy for coping with overt aggression.
    Oddly enough one of the benefits is that I have acquired a sort of selective deafness also useful in other spheres.