“We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”—Abraham Lincoln
I was sitting at a cafe yesterday when a young woman walked in and took her place in line to place an order. A disheveled man, who was not queueing as the others in line were, walked over, flexed at her and then snarled: “You’re after me; don’t cut!” She smiled, apologized, stepped back, and let him join the line.
It was remarkable, really. She fielded his aggressive posture and surly comment without batting an eye lash or rolling her eyes, without looking around for agreement, and without retreating into her phone to make a comment about the encounter to a sympathetic listener. Instead, she smiled, stepped back to allow him space, and looked up at the menu on the wall above the register.
Moments later the man looked back and smirked condescendingly at her—as if to reaffirm his ill-gained victory—and she looked up, smiled and asked “What do you normally order?” The man was thrown off, but he could only manage to grumble: “Black coffee” before turning around.
I don’t write for Disney, so this doesn’t end her kindness melting his gruff demeanor or with them living happily ever after, but this scene did reaffirm to me the power of grace and the beauty of graciousness. It also reminded me that we move in the direction of our response. This young lady was lifted up by her orientation upward and by refusing to let the petty tyrant within her acknowledge the petty tyrant within him, despite the attempted affront…a challenge we all face from time to time.
Offense may and likely will be given in any moment, but it need not be taken. Whenever offense is not taken, the ill spirit is rendered impotent. To be sure, refusing to take umbrage at any and every manifestation of the spirit of the adversary is the only way to release the power of love into the situation at hand. Remember, evil has no power of its own. Evil must feed on indignation—especially righteous indignation—to survive. Absent indignation, evil destroys itself.
Let love radiate without concern for results.