Reminders: Proportionate Responses to Problems

Reminders: Proportionate Responses to Problems

by Ardith Hoff

“An unidentified man in Tucson, Arizona used a blowtorch to eliminate some unwanted spider webs under his mobile home.  The resulting fire on October 15, 2017 required 20 firefighters to fight the blaze that torched his house.  Addressing problems proportionately can prevent a lot of unnecessary damage.”  World 11/25/17, p.15 

Most people have overreacted to situations in ways that have caused them additional problems.  Losing our patience, or our temper, is a fairly common experience.  Once that happens, the actions that follow can not only make things worse for the person who caused the original problem, but also for the person who responds in a disproportionate way by saying or doing something that they might later regret.

Road rage is one example of how a person who feels somehow disrespected or mistreated by another driver can quickly get out of hand.  The first driver might feel justified in catching up with a driver who cut him off and “teaching him a lesson”.  But we all know that those incidents often end with people getting hurt, including the second driver and anyone who happened to get in his way while he was trying to take revenge. 

Some people think that the Old Testament “eye for and eye” way of dealing with problems is appropriate.  But in Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus rejected that idea.  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.  But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  That seems like an opposite extreme, but let’s remember that the original, “eye for an eye” edict in Exodus 21:23-25 was not meant for personal retaliation.  It was a call for proportionate responses in the judicial process. 

While Jesus calls for us to forgive our enemies, that does not preclude remedies in our judicial system.  Those who have been harmed are not to take matters into their own hands.  Only the courts should determine punishments.  It also does not mean that we cannot defend ourselves, and our families (self defense), or that we should shy away from making victim impact statements, but ultimately, our job is to forgive.