*Guest Author/Blogger and my 2nd Liebster Blog Award Nominee
I was in the fifth grade, and a classmate and I had developed a rivalry that neither of us tried to hide. It was so overt that we were enlisting other students into our feud, handing them our hateful notes to pass on and rallying justification from those who would join our “sides.” Even though it appeared to the teacher that the classroom was carrying on normally, our animosity for each other was escalating and it had created a definite undercurrent.
That particular day, at recess, we had marshaled our forces and taken stands at opposite ends of the play yard. There, we huddled with our friends du jour, glaring at each other and telling our followers how awful the other one was. It somehow made us feel like we were winning our vague and undefined war. Now, back in the classroom, we once again sat three seats apart, sending written slurs back and forth and thinking we were safe because they were only notes. They weren’t real blows, after all – not like sticks and stones.
Our verbal volleys took the form of, “No one likes you,” or, “You think you’re smart but you’re not, you’re stupid!” We each tried to “one up” the other with horrid behavior, writing something nastier and meaner with each entry on a well-worn and crowded bit of paper.
We had no idea we were cursing each other. Most children (and many adults) don’t realize the power of their words. Typically, too, we didn’t know what had set us off in the first place. I suppose it was a sort of rivalry for power – to be the self-proclaimed Queen of the Class, or to be the most important fifth grader at our small, country school.
That conflict was at a peak on this day that I recall so well. I recall it because, contrary to everything that was occurring, it was the first time I ever purposefully returned good for evil and turned my other cheek. It was the first time I observed the active power of Grace. It was the first time I realized how I could change my behavior from wrong to right in one easy move.
I wasn’t yet thinking any of this, however, when the student in front of me slipped me a note from my nemesis that read, “You are ugly!”
Well! That was enough to make me want to fire up my #2 pencil into a pretty strong comeback. I wanted to say, “Not as ugly as you!”, but for some reason I hesitated. Why I did so at that point I’ll never know, but evidently all of those Sunday school lessons and my parents’ teachings hadn’t gone totally unheard. So, instead of printing the comeback my hand was itching to write, I chose to experiment. I gulped hard and penned something else. Underneath her scribbled assessment of my appearance, I wrote, “Even if I am ugly, you are pretty.” Then I tapped the shoulder in front of me, passed the note forward, and waited.
Nothing. No reply came. I knew she received the note because I saw it delivered, but she wasn’t answering. Meanwhile, I was feeling very different from the way I usually felt after launching one of my insults. I felt . . . relief – even a sort of joy. I no longer felt like the victim of someone else’s hatred. Without knowing it, I had enacted Luke 6:28, and had returned a blessing for a curse. I was also about to learn the power of such an act, in addition to how much better I felt for having done it.
Several minutes later, the note finally arrived. I unfolded it, anxious. To our other scrawls she had added, simply, “You are too.”
The war was over. We had put down our weapons and agreed to a ceasefire through a small exchange of kindness, and we were no longer enemies. Where sin had abounded, Grace had abounded more. It was a breathtaking lesson and I’ve never forgotten it because it was so unexpected and so poignant. I have drawn on it many times during my life, often with wonderful results, but with none so stunning to me as that experience so many years ago.
Would you believe I still have that note?