On a stormy, dark evening, one year prior to World War I, two Turkish officers begged me to let them in. One of them, Captain Achmed, introduced himself as the brother of my friend Ismael Pascha. With great joy, I welcomed both of them into our hospital.
After dinner, as we made ourselves comfortable and visited with one another, the captain suddenly asked me a question: “Did any of your loved ones pass away during that horrible bloodbath at Ádánd in Hungary?” Reluctantly, I remembered the terrible and shameful occurrence; therefore, I tried to steer the conversation in another direction. However this gentleman kept on prodding and asked again. “Sir,” I answered him, “I have had enough sorrow. I lost my father, my two brothers, and several dear friends. Let us leave the deceased rest in peace.”
“Your loss,” the captain continued, “is great. But why is it that you remain so calm instead of boiling over with anger as we touch on this subject? Why would you not be an enemy to the people here instead of them trusting you?”
“In the beginning, they had strong skeptical feelings towards me. However, over time these feelings have changed drastically. These people do not visit other doctors. And if it happens that they do, they will come to me for a second opinion, verifying that what they were told was true. You’re asking me if I harbor any thoughts of revenge. Definitely, I do, and I often have the chance to retaliate. To me, this feeling of revenge intertwines with the feeling of justice. However, there are two ways to take revenge. Let me explain.
Several weeks after that horrific day, as I was sitting at the lunch table, my servant came running towards me and breathlessly informed me that two critically injured men were just admitted to the hospital. I was on my way immediately. One of the men had a broken sternum with a splinter in his left lung. He was coughing and constantly spitting up blood. Emergency surgery was necessary. The other man had a broken leg.
The critically injured was prepared for surgery. When he was lying on the operating table, I looked at his face and recognized him immediately. He was the one who had murdered my youngest brother! Revenge! My body shook as if I had a fever! My feelings were like a raging sea! The horrific scene flashed before my eyes. I saw my brother before me and heard his dear voice. Then I remembered the unforgettable. This man who was now lying before me had thrown my brother’s helpless body to the ground and in his fanatical hatred had sliced his throat! Total concentration left me. I had to close my eyes. A thousand thoughts shot through my head.
At first, it seemed to me that justice demanded I should just take revenge and get rid of this fiend. It would only take one little mistake, and he would be gone. Nobody would even notice. Then God spoke and drew my attention to several verses in the New Testament: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:20). “But I say to you, love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
Then I returned to my senses. I realized the dangerous thoughts that had overwhelmed me. God had protected me from becoming a murderer. The operating table now seemed like a holy altar and my brother’s murderer like a friend. A relaxed smile came across my face, which astonished my operating team. With a gentle and peaceful hand, for which I thank God, I could give his life a second chance. The other man, his uncle, had an operation as well. Both are still in the hospital on the road to recovery.”
My guest, Pascha, stared at the floor. He stood up as I finished sharing my experience and placed his hand on my shoulder and said: “My dear friend, you have a two-edged sword with which you can retaliate. Is your story actually true? May I see these two men? Take me there; I want to get rid of these two devils.”
I replied, “They are sick, weak, and helpless. If you want to do something to them, give them money instead so that they can make a new start and become respectable, righteous men.”
Without saying a word, my two guests retired for the night. The next morning when I asked Pascha how he slept, he answered: “It was impossible for me to sleep! Your story has moved me greatly. I will never forget you or your act of retaliation.”
An Armenian Doctor