“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon... which cuts without wounding and ennobles people who yield it. It is a sword that heals.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King’s answer to the dilemma of disrespect is clear. When attacked the response just has to be nonviolence as the offender’s darts are sent scurrying back to where they originated, producing a mood-correcting shame.
It’s easy to see this operant in everyday life. Here’s an example.
Perhaps you made a friendly advance to someone, yet they saw the advance as a threat and recoiled like an incensed cobra. You meant harmony and grace. They saw something for that moment that was unwanted.
Often we don’t see the issues we’re causing for others because our intent is clear and pure. It can be a hurtful surprise to be on the receiving end of a narky reaction. The best form of ‘counterattack,’ however, is to capitulate—apologise with prompt genuineness.
Too often we’ve been caught out using our lizard brains. Fly back at them we do. This is an ingredient toward the recipe of regret. Fully cooked at microwave speed is the disaster of rapport in seconds.
Instead, by not taking their emotional response to heart—one they’ll possibly regret anyway (even if they don’t apologise)—we offer the situation some grace-time, and our apology and extension of grace will give them the chance to accept it. If there is a sense of reasonability about them they’ll see it. If they’re too far gone, pray for them; who’d want to live like that—full of raging fear marked in torment?
The Best Outcome
Some issues fix themselves but not usually without logical intervention. The best outcome for any emotionally reactive situation is to come back to reasonability and logic.
To apologise for apparent hurt just makes sense. If we truly love God, and therefore his people, we’ll do what we can to put this back together again.
God honours the intent of sacrificing an apology for this type of situation—so long as it’s genuine. The other person is going to react better than if we’d engaged them in our lizard-brained emotional reaction. By defueling the fire of relational contempt we’ve opened up space for fresh thought; God’s light flushes out much of the emotive darkness.
The best thing is it works every time because of patience. Dr. King knew that his agenda for God and the oppressed was only a matter of time from realisation; because of the way they were fighting.
The nonviolent defence is the best form of attack. It works with lasting surety because it heals and builds.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.