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‘Tit for tat’ is an English saying meaning “equivalent retaliation”. It is paying back one wrong or injury with another. It is repayment in kind (not in kindness) for an injury endured. It is as described in the Old Testament “… life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”  Exodus 21:23-25. Another verse that is not found in the Bible that people use is “do unto others as they have done to you.” Somehow this ‘tit for tat’ seems to make sense and it might even sound fair especially because it is supported by Newton’s Third Law that states “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.”

 

Many of our relationships have been defined by this principle of ‘tit for tat’, and the marriage union is no exception, in fact, it is an underlying principle in many marriages. Our conduct and action in marriages is largely defined by how we perceive the conduct of our spouses to be.  Our treatment of each other is not defined by the Bible, the marriage vow or any other noble principle, but it is define by how we have been treated by our spouses in the past. If I think my spouse loves me and has been treating me well, then I am prompted to do the same. However, if I think my spouse has not been kind, loving and caring, I will also decide to be unkind, unloving and uncaring. If he/she is rude I will also become rude, if he/she cheats on me I will also be tempted to do the same. This eventually becomes a vicious cycle. Like children playing on a seesaw the momentum of continual hurt and pain is maintained by the actions of each person. But unlike the children’s seesaw which is fun and entertaining, there is nothing exciting about this marriage ‘tit for tat’ seesaw.

It is unfortunate that many couples have been playing in this seesaw for a long time and it has become a way of life, but what many don’t realize is that this game is the race to destruction. If one has to feel good about the revenge act (the ‘tit’), it must be a little bit more intense (more mean) than the first act (the ‘tat’) that has been done to you. The response to that will also be a little bit more, and it goes on and on until we reach rock bottom where there is nothing desirable in that marriage.

 

How then do we deal with the hurt that we get in marriage?  In Matthew 5: 38-39 Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Here Jesus is redefining how we are to relate to one another, instead of revenge and retaliation, Jesus is teaching us to be kind to those who are unkind to us. The fact that we are not to retaliate does not mean there will be no punishment for those who hurt us, they will be, God will take care of that, for He says “… vengeance is mine, I will repay…” Heb 10:30. Since ‘tat’ needs ‘tit’ to go on, the way to bring the ‘tit for tat’ to an end is to stop your ‘tit’. The other person might continue with the ‘tat’ and other ‘tat’,  and yet another ‘tat’, but without the ‘tit’ the ‘tat’ will soon be a boring monotonous action that will soon come to an end. In the seesaw game if one decides not to continue jumping the other will remain suspended in the air and the game will come to an end. Therefore our response to the hurt, pain and humiliation that we suffer even from people who claim to love us should be in kindness not just in kind; it must be to do good to them in return for their evil. For every ‘tat’ our response must be a good treatment, a ‘treat for tat’. The good that we do also starts another cycle of good that is exciting and enjoyable like the children’s seesaw.

What every marriage needs is:

  • One person with enough sense to stop the ‘tit for tat’ seesaw,
  • Someone with the maturity to refuse to ‘tit’.
  • Someone who cares more about the other person and the relationship than he/she cares about his/her own feelings.
  • Someone who dares to be the saviour for the marriage.
  • Someone who believes Jesus instruction and acts on it.

For the want of that someone many marriages are perishing.

 

Instead of spending all the time complaining about the uncaring, unromantic, unsympathetic, unloving, unkind and impatient spouse, why don’t you become everything that you want in your spouse… be generous, be patient, be caring, etc.

Someone once said “an eye for an eye makes the world blind”. ‘Tit for tat’ makes you blind to each other’s needs and eventually destroys the marriage and the family.

 

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