One of my best life lessons came from a game I had as a child, Skunk. If you’ve never heard of it or played, it’s pretty simple. It has two dice, and you add up the total rolled each turn. First to get 100 points wins.

The trick is knowing when to play and when to quit while you’re ahead. Because what I didn’t mention is that, in place of the “1” side of the dice is an image of a skunk. You can roll as many times as you like, racking up points. But there’s a price to pay, and it’s looming hard — roll a skunk, your turn is over. No points. And if you roll two skunks, you lose your entire accumulated score.

I was pretty good at the game. Until I overplayed my hand and was quickly sent back to square one. Humbling.

Sometimes this plays out in real life. There will always be those we believe we can take a chance on. The challenge is those we feel we can’t walk away from — neighbors, co-workers, family. They’re perpetually there so it’s more difficult to cash in our chips. I’ve had such situations, some dragging on for years. Call it being naive or unwilling to give up, but I’ve turned the other cheek, prayed and apologized and periodically rolled the dice “one more time” on the off-chance I can bring resolution.

Recently, I got beaten at my own game. I received a text from one of the feuding people, sharing the desire to be a forgiving Christian and a peacemaker. OK, I’m listening!

I tried to be reassuring and encouraging. She went on to say she’d been praying about what to say … and then let me have it!

Suddenly and without warning, there was a vitriolic text rant. The only pause, I think, was for her to reload! I didn’t reply, as I didn’t want to stoop to that level or retaliate.

And it wasn’t even about me, but someone else I cared about. As I scrolled through the vicious accusations and lies, unable to stop this runaway train, I called someone I know who is a Christian, capable of offering wise counsel. Her immediate reaction — “Block her! This is toxic!”

I have to admit, I’m not great with confrontations and even less so with bullies. Blocking someone, though, is a helpful boundary to set. Amazingly, in the aftermath I actually felt relieved, like a spell had been broken. I hadn’t engaged, and it was like God had thwarted the attack and protected me from what Ron called misplaced anger from this person. I guess it’s true what they say — when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

In this game of life, we can’t always win. But friends, in those moments when we get a “double skunk,” that doesn’t necessarily mean we have lost, either. Sometimes it simply suggests it’s time to put away the pieces. Game over. Find other opponents who play fair.

Phyllis Moore is a speaker, author and former reporter with the News Argus. She also has a YouTube channel, Phyllisophically Speaking.

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