What do you when someone attacks you?
What do you when they attack you verbally? Do you lash out? Do you defend yourself? Do you strike back?
There are no nice universal answers to such situations – something that works for every single situation. Humanity is complex after all. And circumstances are unique.
While it’s nice to be able to say simple solutions, the reality is much more complicated.
We could also say one should turn the other cheek. Is that the best answer for every type of attack that might happen to you? I doubt it. Yes, Jesus said it. But does that make it a universal answer to every single instance of conflict? I wouldn’t argue that.
Besides, we can also cite Ecclesiastes 3 – there is a season for everything.
So does this mean that anything goes in how we deal with people who attack us? No, I don’t think so either.
There’s an immediate response and a longer term response. Often, we have very little control over our immediate response – our bodies just do what they need to defend themselves. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a survival mechanism.
But what about longer term? After the immediate threat to safety is over? How do we respond to an attacker – someone who wishes to demean or degrade us? Someone who attacks us verbally?
One way is to do the most unexpected thing you can do – offer forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t a two-way street. It’s one directional. It is a person releasing another of the power they have over them. Here’s an example – let’s say someone attacks you verbally, calls you names, insults you, etc. In such a situation, many people would respond in kind to this person, or walk away – fight or flight. Another option may be to stand and wait the person out, not interacting with them at all. But what if we just forgave the person on the spot? It may be dangerous an invite worse insults. It depends on the person.
Forgiveness in this instance would be releasing the power of the attacker over you – releasing their insults, pain, and suffering from you. Saying in essence that they have no power over you.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation is a two-way street and requires both parties to want to come together and reestablish a right relationship. It requires both parties working together – one acknowledging their wrong and the other forgiving them, and ready to move on to a new stage in relationship.
Is forgiveness right in the moment? Again, it depends on you. It depends on the situation.
I know this much, forgiveness is always a good option at some point. Even after an attack on you – the effect will be felt for a long time. Holding onto that, instead of releasing it, only does further damage to yourself. It does nothing to the other person. Forgiveness helps you move on with your life. It releases the person and you from the bondage that was holding you.
“I forgive you” – these are powerful words. Both for you and for the other person. The other person may not like hearing them either though. But again, forgiveness isn’t about the other person. It’s a way for you to be released from someone else.
And it isn’t easy. It’s not easy to forgive someone who attacks you. It’s like opening a wound and rubbing salt in it. Yet, it is necessary to truly heal. To move past the desire for revenge and pay back. Forgiveness allows a person to live again.