There is a scene in the 1938 movie, “Vivacious Lady”, in which two women are arguing. One of them punctuates her feelings by slapping the other. There is a pause and the slapped woman says, quite deliberately, “Now what did you do that for? I’m only going to have to hit you right back.” And she does, slapping the other woman in the same manner.

This leads to a further exchange of slaps to the face, the last one being a double slap. This is answered by a kick in the shins, and the disagreement escalates from there. The movie is a romantic comedy and the fight scene is humorous. However, it made me think of a line from the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus says, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other, also.”

If that admonition had been followed in Vivacious Lady, there would have been no hilarious fight scene. But what about real life? Is it possible that turning the other cheek can de-escalate a situation?

Few of us have to worry about actual slaps in the face, but what about verbal slaps? These abound on social media. Someone makes an innocent comment and in less than an eye-blink, there’s an insulting reply, claiming that what they said is stupid. They return the insult. And soon it’s like a scene straight out of Vivacious Lady, except it’s not at all humorous.

There is a book called When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, by a fellow named Manuel J. Smith. Of all the self-help books out there (and there are a myriad) I rank this one in the top 10. It teaches assertive skills that help people avoid being manipulated and emotionally trampled on. One of the techniques the book teaches is called fogging. Smith says:

“A fog bank is remarkable in some respects . . .  we can throw an object right through it and it is unaffected.”


A person could wear himself out throwing rocks at a fog bank. So in an argument, becomes a fog bank. Here’s how it works. When someone insults you, find whatever grain of truth there is in the insult and agree with it. It’s like a kung fu move in which a fighter side-steps a blow, letting it sail harmlessly by her. Here are some examples.

Someone says, “You”re stupid!” To fog, you reply, ‘that’s true. I”ve done a lot of stupid things in my life.”

You found a grain of truth in their statement and agreed with it. What’s the other person going to do, insult you again? Let ’em.

“You haven’t got the brains of a rubber duck.”

“You”re right. I don’t have the brains of a rubber duck.”

“You’re fat and ugly.”


“Don’t I know it! I’m 30 pounds overweight and I’m certainly no thing of beauty.”

“You don’t deserve to be on social media.”

‘that’s true. I really don’t deserve it.”

Go ahead, try slapping me again. I can do this all day.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: