Be nice to everyone, even those who are mean to you, not because they're nice, but because you are. - Unknown
If someone is mean to you, the natural response is to "get even" by being mean in return. The problem with this strategy is that the other person may have thought that they were "getting even" in the first place, when they were mean. Now they feel they are no longer even, and so they must do something even more nasty in order to get even. So begins a cycle of escalating cruelty.
By returning courtesy for rude and unkind behavior, you break the cycle of escalation. If someone says something unkind, instead of responding in like manner you could say nothing or carry on your conversation as if nothing had happened. If you think they may not have realized what they were doing, you could politely explain that you are offended. If the offender is in an angry or emotional state, that latter strategy is best left to a later time when the person is calm.
I thought that this would be a particularly nice "thought for the week" in this holiday season, when many people around the world are celebrating Christmas. Jesus Christ was well known for advocating generousity, kindness, and forgiveness. According to him, if you are slapped on the face, the proper response is not to slap back, but to turn the other cheek. Perhaps you would be slapped again, but more likely it would prevent an escalation.
Jesus took the principle of forgiveness so seriously that, as he was being tortured to death on the cross, he forgave the soldiers who were doing it to him. It's hard to imagine any person being so forgiving! Presumably he didn't want others to use his death as an excuse for engaging in further conflict or war.
Unfortunately, there have been many wars over the course of human history. I think it is very likely that if people had widely adopted the principle of forbearance and forgiveness in their lives, most of that suffering could have been avoided. Let's set a better future for ourselves now by showing civility and a readiness to forgive when we are offended, rather than responding immediately with "tit for tat."
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Copyright Arthur de Leyssac, 2014, All Rights Reserved.