This story was originally told by my friend and mentor Zig Ziglar. I also want to say that no cats were harmed in the writing of this column.

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 salesperson. 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.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote: “I have learned the secret of living in every situation… For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”

Wouldn’t you love to have that kind of contentment? You can. The question is: How do you respond to having your cat kicked? How can we learn to respond like Paul, with gentleness and grace?

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.

How can you and I apply Paul’s words? “I can do anything with the help of Christ.” How do we do that? One answer comes from Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. (Parts of 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.”

Do you remember Jim and his cat kicking? Well, here is how the story could and should end:

After much thought and prayer, Jim apologized to his wife and promised to be a better husband and father. He cleared his calendar to arrange a vacation for his family. Jim then apologized for taking his frustration out on Larry. Larry sought out Robin and asked forgiveness for being so rude. Robin brought cookies to the receptionist and apologized for her behavior. On the way home, the receptionist ordered pizza and promised 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!