But to you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. – Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
It takes a lot of strength to ‘love your enemies’ and back away when you’ve been hurt or insulted, but you also gain a lot of strength from dealing with the situation in a way that honours God.
In ‘Hockey Tough’ by Saul Miller, he tells the story of Matt, an NHL player who was having a lot of trouble with his coach. The coach didn’t have a lot of faith in Matt’s ability, didn’t play him very much, and treated him poorly. Matt saw the coach as a huge negative obstacle in his career and the situation was causing him a lot of stress in his life. When he was at a Christian hockey camp that summer, he was asked about his relationship with his coach and couldn’t lie, so he mentioned that it was one area of his game where he had a problem. One of the parents came up to him afterwards and said, “I really don’t know you, but you seem to have a real problem with your coach. My suggestion is that you pray for him. It can change everything.”
Matt knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he began to pray for the coach every day. “After a little while, my feelings for the coach began to change,” Matt said. “By the next season, the frustration and anger I had with the man had disappeared. At the start of the next season, the coach didn’t play me very much. He sat me for half of the team’s exhibition games. But it didn’t bother me. I felt fine.” When he was more relaxed and positive, Matt played better, he had a lot of success that year, and even became an NHL all-star. It was his attitude that changed, taking responsibility for the situation and shifting his thinking and feelings from anger, frustration, and negativity to respect and positivity. It can be difficult to ‘turn the other cheek’ (a reference to what Jesus said right afterwards, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.”), but if you allow yourself to get sucked into that negative energy and retaliate or let that person get under your skin, you are hurting yourself by letting them bring out the worst in you. No matter what someone else says, remember that God loves you and has a purpose for your life.
Game Plan: When you’re having a conflict with another person or they have hurt you in some way, try praying for them and taking a few deep breaths to think about your best move rather than firing an insult back at them or trying to hurt them back. In Psalms, King David prayed for many people who had rejected and insulted him, but he often begins by sharing his honest feelings about those who have hurt him. God knows what’s on your mind, so you shouldn’t try to hide your anger and frustration, but praying about the situation can help give you some insight into how you can best deal with it.