It was William Shakespeare who said, “The better part of valor is discretion.” But long before I read that quote or knew who originated it, my grandmother taught me its lesson.
I was a student in an elementary school which was only four blocks east from where my grandparents lived. So, every evening, I would walk to their home and wait for my parents to get off work and come to get me. Most of the time, my walks to their home were uneventful.
Then one evening, as I was walking past a big lilac bush, the school bully jumped out from behind it and proceeded to rearrange my face with his fists. I have never been much of a fighter, so I made the job easy for him. He bloodied my nose, blackened my eye and tore my shirt before he ran out of energy and patience with hearing me cry and beg him to leave me alone.
When I got to Grandma’s house, she took me in and cleaned me up as best she could while I told her what happened. When she was finished, she gave me some milk and cookies and asked me, “What are you going to do about it?” I did not know what she was talking about. The bully was older and bigger than me, and I had no clue as to how I could get the best of him.
The next two afternoons, the same thing happened. And my grandmother asked me the same question: “What are you going to do about it?”
But on the fourth afternoon, something changed. When I got near that lilac bush, I realized that the bully was probably waiting behind it again. The question my grandmother had asked me came to mind: “What are you going to do about it?” And it struck me. I could walk one block south, four blocks west and then one block back north to my gransparents’ home and avoid being beaten up. So, I did, and it worked perfectly.
At that time I did not know about the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes which it contains. So, I did not know that Jesus had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” I only knew that I had found a way to to get from my school to my grandparents’ home without getting pummeled and pounded.
Nor was I aware that Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
Some would say that I was a coward for changing my path home to my grandparents’ house. But when I tie what the Bible teaches with what Shakespeare said, I was not only being discrete, but I was also obeying God by taking the responsibility to be at peace with someone who was bent on conflict with me.
Even today, in my later years, I try to remember the lesson I learned at Grandma’s knee when I am confronted by someone who is bent on conflict with me. The question is NOT: “How can I get them to leave me alone?” The question IS: “What am I going to do about it?” And the only wise answer is to back off, back away and take the responsibility for being at peace insofar as it depends on me.
Even though it makes me look like a coward?
Even though it makes me look like a coward!