A journalist in Jerusalem heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the western wall of the temple to pray twice a day everyday for a long, long time. She went to the so-called Wailing Wall to check it out, and there he was. She watched him pray, and after about 45 minutes when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview.

“Sir, how long have you been coming to the wall and praying?”

“For about 60 years.”

“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”

“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the hatred to stop. And I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and friendship.”

“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”

“Like I’m talking to a wall.”

Whether this internet circular is historically accurate may be beside the point; we all know it to be spirtually true. Middle East conflict today demonstrates a tried and true principle in human struggles that all siblings learn in the back seat of the car growing up: If you make the claim “he hit me first,” you may get off the hook.

The problem with that logic is that once adopted, both parties are forever hooked. Language that begins with the prefix “re-” justifies all hitting back as mere retaliation, retribution or revenge. By being the second or fourth or 102nd or 104th, an unwarranted moral superiority slips in.

Daniel Gilbert summarized the fallacy in a New York Times op-ed piece: “The problem with the principle of even-numberedness is that people count differently. Every action has a cause and a consequence: something that led to it and something that followed from it. But research shows that while people think of their own actions as the consequences of what came before, they think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later.”

Jesus’ way is harder and better. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” And “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Stopping the vicious cycle of violence requires a different strategy than striking back. You must strike ahead instead. Peace comes only by practices of forgiveness and forbearance, patience and prayer. And these come only from love.

Love never waits for the other party to love first.