It is easy to justify to ourselves a snide or impatient remark or an uncharitable act by deciding that the other person deserved it. He wasn’t very nice to me, so why should I be nice to him? She snubbed me, so I’ll just walk past her next time I see her. He’s so nasty all the time, why should I waste any energy on him? The scenarios are different, but the impulse to behave toward others as they behave toward us feels the same whatever the circumstances that cause it to arise.
The reality, of course, is that we don’t need to let other people’s moods and behaviors determine ours. Joyce Meyer, in a book of hers I’m reading titled The Confident Woman, recalls a story told of a Quaker man. The man was walking down the street with a friend of his one evening and stopped to purchase a newspaper. The proprietor of the newsstand was unfriendly and rude to him. Nonetheless, the Quaker was kind and respectful in his dealing with the man. As he and his friend continued down the street, the friend asked him, “How could you be so cordial to him with the terrible way he was treating you?” The man responded, “Oh, he is always that way; why should I let him determine how I am going to act?”
Indeed, why should we ever let someone else determine how we will act? If we are people of love, if we are intent on modeling our lives on the life of Jesus, then our goal ought to be to treat others as our loved brothers and sisters regardless of how they act toward us.
Sometimes that it hard. The impulse to “hit back” does sometimes rise. When it does, we need to remember that we need not follow it. That it is our choice whether to let someone else determine how we are going to act or whether to be the person God calls us to be.