Back in the day, which am pretty sure was Thursday, I had a t-shirt the read, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” It was a funny shirt. There were bumper stickers with it plastered on them, backpacks, folders, even a couple of billboards at the beach I grew up near had this phrase on them. It almost became the mantra of a generation. We don’t boil over for what you do to us, we will get even and it will destroy you worse than you could ever hurt me.
I have this friend named Blake who is an incredible friend. We have done years and years of life together. He has been a pastor at a couple different churches and now owns and runs a company called Legacy Building in Nashville. FYI…side note…you should buy something from him…it is UNREAL stuff. Ok…back to the story. Blake and I laugh more together than anyone that I know. He is certifiably crazy. For a stint of our relationship, he thought that it would be funny to pull a couple elaborate pranks on me. For instance, while I was living in Dallas, U2 had a tour stop to play at the new Cowboys Stadium. The show sold out immediately. However, Blake put an ad on Craigslist with my name and cell phone number and told the world that I had two front row tickets to the show. For the next three days my phone blew up. The phone call that finally revealed who it was, was the one from Blake looking for those tickets. From that point on I began to live with my 15-year-old mantra of “I don’t get mad, I get even.”
For years I have been waiting and plotting my retaliation. I let him believe that he had gotten me good and that I had tapped out and surrendered. But in the shadows I was lurking and prowling like a lion waiting to devour my prey. Then it happened…
This past summer our middle school pastor Jake and I took a motorcycle trip to Nashville to visit Blake. While we were having coffee with a new friend, Blake went to the back of the coffee shop to do some work while we visited with this man. Jake texted Blake from across the coffee shop something to the effect of “hey good lookin’!!!” Here was the kicker, Blake did not have Jake’s number in his phone. He immediately responded with a who is this and how may I help you. That was enough for us to take our chance of getting even. What transpired next was nothing short of brilliant. An elaborate plan began to unfold.
When asked how we got his number, we responded with “off a bathroom wall.” Unknown to us was that Blake was working with a new ad company that was using bathrooms as a place to promote businesses and he thought that was what the contact was about. What a stroke of luck for us. Over the next three days we kept up communication. We made her, you read that right, HER…sound like a very lovable and likable person. She wanted to write a blog about his business. When he tried to schedule a later date, she got a little belligerent. She pushed back and went a little crazy. Keep in mind…SHE IS NOT REAL. As we were creating our character we began to let his wife and four girls in on the situation. We got his employees in on the ploy. But the greatest part of the whole story was that we were able to get a real FBI agent involved who helped us create a fake criminal profile for this man…that was posing as a woman…to rob and rip people off. This could not have been going any better.
After three days of stress and torture on my dear friend Blake…and yes we are still the best of friends…it was time for him to find out. We were all sitting in his living room and Jake from across the room, near the window, took a photo of Blake and then texted it to him with the caption, “I like your hair tonight.” Blake quietly got up, went upstairs to his bedroom and began putting an arsenal together to protect his house. It was then that we thought we might want to let the cat out of the bag. We sent one final email with a picture of all of us in his kitchen pointing at the camera. The next thirty seconds were priceless…he walked down the stairs, past his family, and stood right in front of me sitting on his couch. A wry little smile came across his face and he asked one question. In fact it was short…”It’s you isn’t it?” At that moment everyone burst into laughter. He sat in relief. The rest of the night we talked about the scheme we set in motion three days earlier, complete with a fake Facebook profile, twitter profile, Instagram account, and a google+ profile. He was impressed with the level of commitment we took just to get even. Honestly, so was I. So I began to ask myself the question…why did I work so hard to get even?
The story above was all in fun, but it revealed a part of my heart that I don’t really like. It is a dark place that says if you hurt me, then I am going to destroy you to the point that you could never top it. It is a nasty neighborhood in my soul that longs to unleash fury if you make me look like a fool. In fact, I really think it is a dark thing in all of us. We take it a step further sometimes too. It is not just I don’t get mad, I get even. We now live in a culture of I am going to mad, and I am going to get even. However, this is what I know about my heart and my life, and my guess is a lot of you too. The amount of time and energy I spend trying to get even takes more time, energy, and moments I will never get back, than if I would have simply shown grace. Maybe our new life mantra should be “I don’t get even, I give grace.”
Getting even leaves us empty, even after we have gotten even. Getting even leaves us with guilt and shame after we have done the deed. Getting even leaves a wake of destruction that we didn’t want to begin with. Getting even fractures relationships to the point that sometimes they cannot be restored. However, when we show grace everything shifts.
When we show grace, we and the other person are left full of hope. We we show grace, we are encouraged and become an encouragement. When we show grace, we begin to pick up the pieces that destroyed us to begin with. When we show grace, relationships are restored and renewed. When we show grace…everything shifts.
This past weekend we defined God’s grace as NOT getting what we deserve. What we deserve is Hell, what we get is Heaven. What we deserve is separation from God, what we get is a deep-rooted relationship with him. What we deserve is weeping and gnashing of teeth, but what we get is love, comfort, and joy from the Creator of the Universe. Jesus could have gotten even and passed up on being beaten and tortured. Instead he showed us grace and took our place so we would not have to die.
I don’t know who it is in your world that would love to get even with this week, but what if instead you flipped this world on its head and showed that person grace? Who knows, maybe the world around us would stop trying to get even, and would give grace too.