Frequently, I’ll encounter something that reminds me of an experience from my childhood. A friend of a friend on Facebook posted the following:
To avoid dissensions we should be ever on our guard, more especially with those who drive us to argue with them, with those who vex and irritate us, and who say things likely to excite us to anger. When we find ourselves in company with quarrelsome, eccentric individuals, people who openly and unblushingly say the most shocking things, difficult to put up with, we should take refuge in silence, and the wisest plan is not to reply to people whose behavior is so preposterous. Those who insult us and treat us contumeliously are anxious for a spiteful and sarcastic reply: the silence we then affect disheartens them, and they cannot avoid showing their vexation; they do all they can to provoke us and to elicit a reply, but the best way to baffle them is to say nothing, refuse to argue with them, and to leave them to chew the cud of their hasty anger. This method of bringing down their pride disarms them, and shows them plainly that we slight and despise them. – Saint Ambrose
That quote reminded me of of the fights I had with the minister when I was a young teen. He would make an accusation against me or call me a name and I would respond angrily. Because I had taken two psychology classes, I often used terminology that angered him.
“Don’t try using psychology against me!” he’d shout and then slap me.
I’d continue to argue and he’d become more and more violent. With each new argument, his violence increased. I was terrified but I would not back down.
I began dreaming that I was watching our fights. An angel stood next to me. In my dreams, the minister always badly injured me. At that point, the angel would turn to me and say, “Can you see if you had just walked away, remained silent, apologized, it would have ended differently?”
With the angel beside me, I would see the moment when I might have responded differently. “Yes,” I would answer, “I do see it.”
Within three weeks, I’d find myself actually living my dream. I would be suffused with the knowledge that I had already seen the fight, suffused with the powerful electric tingle that came when God tightened His arms about me. During the fight, I heard myself respond but was also intensely aware that I was waiting for the moment when I was to follow the angel’s instructions. And when the moment arrived, I’d shut up or say, “I smell something burning. Excuse me.” Or, “I’m sorry.” Or I’d just walk away. The minister would look puzzled and shake his head but the argument would be at an end. Soon, I just stopped responding to any of his accusations and name calling; the fights ended. For nearly two years, we didn’t fight and he didn’t hit me.