The steering wheel was never gripped tighter as Jim drove to work Monday morning. Jim, the owner of a local automobile dealership was angry — real angry. Early that morning his wife forcefully exclaimed: “I can’t take your workaholic ways anymore. We’re through. If you don’t learn to spend more time with me and your family, we’re leaving, forever!”

Jim stomped toward his office, slammed the door behind him, smacked the intercom button on his telephone and shouted for his sales manager: “Larry, come to my office now!”

Larry was a first-rate manager for many years but sales were off. “Larry, I’m tired of your poor production and pitiful excuses. I expect you to whip our sales staff into shape. If you can’t do that, then I’ll hire someone who can. I don’t care how long we’ve been together. Do you hear me?!”

“Yes sir.” What else could Larry say? Plenty, as he walked out mumbling: “That no good, sorry excuse for an owner! Where does he get off threatening me after I’ve worked so hard for him? We’ve seen rougher times. All this abuse because of a few bad months? What a jerk!”

Larry barged into the office of Robin his top sales rep: “I’m sick and tired of making you look good. You would be nowhere if I wasn’t feeding you customers. If you don’t do better, I’m replacing you with a real sales person. Do you understand?!!”

Robin understood all right. “He has a lot of nerve jumping on me after all the sales I’ve generated for this company. Everyone knows the only reason he became a manager is because of me!” Just then, the phone rang. Robin shouted at the receptionist: “Hold all my calls! If you were any kind of decent receptionist, you would know that I’m busy! Just remember — you too can be replaced!”

“Well, the nerve of that prima donna!” thought the receptionist. “Who does she think she is?” For the rest of the day, whenever anyone called, instead of a pleasant “Thank you for calling our company. How can I help you?” The unfortunate caller was met with a gruff, “What do you want?”

When the grumpy receptionist finally made it home that evening, she walked in on her son lying on the couch watching TV. “Son, how many times have I told you that with mother working all day, you need to carry more weight. This room is a filthy, disgusting mess. How dare you watch television when I work all day like a slave! Go to your room. You’re grounded — for life!”

Upset and angry at his mom, the boy hopped from the couch and stomped toward his room. On the way, he noticed Ellis, the family cat asleep on the floor.

Can you guess what happened next?

Before the poor critter could utter a decent meow, the boy gave Ellis, a vicious kick which sent him flying across the room. Ouch!

Question: Wouldn’t Jim avoid a lot of trouble if he just went to the receptionist’s house and kicked the cat himself? Another question: Who’s been kicking your cat? Whose cat have you kicked?

We live in a negative cat-kicking world full of failures, disappointments, back-biting and plain-old meanness. None of us are immune. To deal with the frustrations we need extraordinary patience and courage. Even churches aren’t immune from cat-kicking. Just attend a committee meeting.

The question is: How do you respond to having your cat kicked?

Well, here is what you should not do!

• Don’t look for another cat to kick. That’s abuse.
• Don’t whine to everyone you know. That’s gossip.
• Don’t throw a temper tantrum. That’s immature.
• Don’t take your ball and go home. That’s quitting.
• Don’t use the silent treatment. That’s weak.
• Don’t vow to get even. That’s revenge.
• Yet, don’t do nothing. That’s unhealthy for them and for you.

So, what is the right way to respond? Peter one of the Disciples had this to say:

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard at living in peace with others.” (1 Peter 3:8-11)

• “Be of one mind, full of sympathy.” Pray for guidance.
• “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate.” Fight the urge to get even.
• “Pay them back with a blessing.” Instead, show kindness.
• “God will bless you.” Perspective reminds you are serving God not others.
• “Keep your tongue from speaking evil.” Avoid complaining and back-biting.
• “Turn away from evil and do good.” Look to set a good example for others.
• “Work hard at living in peace with others.” Living in peace with others is hard work.

Is this ever easy? Absolutely not! Like Peter said: “Work hard at living in peace with others.”

Here is how the cat kicking story could and should end:

After thought and prayer, Jim apologizes to his wife and promises to be a better husband and father. He clears his calendar to make time for his family. Jim then apologizes for taking his frustration out on Larry. Larry seeks out Robin and asks forgiveness for being so rude. Robin brings cookies for the receptionist and apologizes for her behavior. On the way home, the receptionist orders pizza and promises her son, she will be a more understanding mother. As for Ellis, the cat — he received quite a few extra treats that week.

The secret of living in every situation is to look to Christ for strength, love one another and work hard at living in peace. It sure beats kicking cats!