Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: The Last Lick

A little girl came in from the playground at school one day sobbing as if her heart would break. The teacher asked the child if she was hurt, to which she said, "No". "Then why in the world are you crying?" asked the teacher. Between sobs the little girl said, "Susan hit me and the bell rang before I could hit her back".

The urge to hit back, "get even" with people who have hurt us is powerful. It has broken up friendships, disrupted families and even started wars. We want to have the "last word" in an argument and the "last lick" in a fight. Nothing is more fragile than our pride. But anybody can get in the "last word" or the "last lick" and keep the battle going. Only the strong and most mature can absorb the last lick or the last word and end the battle.

If there is anything that the world, our country and our community sorely needs, it is people who have enough maturity and grace to allow someone else to have the last word or the last lick. Having the strength not to strike back may cause momentary pain, but after the initial blow to pride, that pain is transformed into strength. Conversely, those who have the last word initially feel very good about their conquest, but after that initial flush of pride, last words turn into ashes in one's mouth.

One of the most notable achievements of Jesus, for which he is remembered as one of uncommon strength, was how he let the cruel world have the last lick. Even the hardened Roman soldiers on the execution team which carried out the crucifixion looked up at him as he died and began to wonder who had won, them or him. Today, there is no doubt about who won. But, what if Jesus had insisted on the last lick or the last word?

It takes real maturity to deal with conflicts in such way as to bring lasting peace. In addition to all the theological understandings of Jesus, he is also a noble and notable model for us in dealing with verbal and physical conflict.

Test the strength of your character today - let someone else have the last word, and if necessary let someone else get in the last lick.