My Word of the Week: Overcome

overcome – verb | over·come | \ˌō-vər-ˈkəm\

: to defeat (someone or something)
: to successfully deal with or gain control of (something difficult)
: to affect (someone) very strongly or severely

Last week as I was working in my home office, I saw our black cat Shadow bouncing around on the back patio suspiciously. I watched her for a few seconds before realizing she actually was playing with something. Something alive.

It’s not the first time that Shadow, or Kiki as we call her, has hunted, pounced on, then toyed with a small chipmunk or mouse. But when I went out to investigate, my heart sank when I realized she had attacked a hummingbird, the hummingbird I had particularly invited into our yard with flowers and feeders. My heart pounded as I shooed away the cat to give the little bird a proper ending. But the bird moved, then fluttered. His tiny humming wings propelled him a few feet away. Unfortunately, Kiki captured him in her mouth again.


Our black Lab, Tilly, was outside with me, too. Suddenly she was very interested in whatever was garnering my attention, especially if it involved the cat. Each time Kiki opened her mouth and dropped the tiny bird, Tilly bounded in. With all my strength, I pushed away feline and canine alike, trying to give the bird a fighting chance.

Eventually, the bird, the cat, and the dog were all in separate locations on the patio. I grabbed the cat and threw her in the house and then pushed Tilly through the door, too. I wasn’t sure how to nurse to health an injured hummingbird, but seeing no blood or open wounds and encouraged by the fact that the little bird could still fly, I guided the bird over toward the fence and under the dense coverage of hostas.

When I walked back into the house, both dog and cat were begging to get outside and back into the action. I felt sick at the Wild Kingdom/circle of life drama going on in my own back yard. I glared into the eyes of my pets and felt outraged. Later, when I was breathing normally again and had forgiven the animal members of my family for their transgressions, I went back outside and parted the leaves of the giant hostas. The bird was gone. Relief settled in, even as I began to miss the little hummer flitting and flying outside my window. He still hasn’t come back. And I don’t blame him.

I’ve felt outrage a lot lately, as atrocities from police brutality and racial injustice to inhumane hunting and organ harvesting from aborted babies come at us day after day. And those are just the beginning: serial killings and mass shootings, terrorists zeroing in on US targets, sports heroes condemned for cheating, and continued vitriol over same-sex marriage all occupy prime spots in my social media feed and the evening news. I barely have time to digest what one outrage means before the next one comes.

It’s hard for me to admit, but all the outrage has affected my faith in Jesus in ways I couldn’t predict and barely understand. At times, I find myself numb to the next bit of news, I feel lonely when I don’t always fit neatly into the “sides” of an issue, I wonder if I still believe what I once did when I see others expressing my views hatefully, and I am paralyzed about how to pray for everything and everyone all at the same time.

I have nearly been overcome by evil.

But recently, I decided just to lay this out to Jesus: all the outrage as well as the feeling of being overcome. Without knowing how, I decided to trust that somehow he could lead me through it. In my searching, I came again to Romans 12, a very practical chapter for how to respond to others in many situations. As I neared the end, I felt my soul fill up as I read this: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I don’t have all the answers, I can’t fix all the problems, I’m not even aware of most of the evil that happens in the world. But I do know what it means to do good, at least at the most basic level.

It starts with rescuing a bird, but it also means taking care of the pets that nearly killed it.

And it keeps going from there.

What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.

Photo by Pat Gaines, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • Ann Kroeker ,

    When we were at family camp, a friend and I were chatting outside the lodge when a bird flew into the big picture window–thunk! It dropped to the ground and crumpled. We thought it was a goner. The kids who’d been playing games inside came racing out, concerned. The bird seemed beyond stunned. They slowly went inside and left it, to give it space. My friend and I continued our conversation and looked over now and then. The bird seemed still, unmoving. I launched into a long story after we debated about which staff person to contact about the dying/dead bird. I finished my story, then I looked over at the bird. It was gone. Flown away. It survived and revived itself, somehow. It just needed some quiet moments to catch its breath and recover from the blow.

    I think we all need that kind of quiet recovery time, just like your hummer. It’s a reminder that we can find our right minds again and find our wings to fly. It’s a weird world, where glass looks like sky and we can thunk into trouble unsuspecting. Just give us some breathing room. Let us rest.

    • Sandra Heska King ,

      This is my response to your question over on FB, so I thought I’d slip it in here, too. My word for the week was turkeys… the family (or two families of 4 adults and 9 babies?) that were under my bedroom window Monday morning, then wandered across the road, and then came back to my yard. I wonder what they were finding here… Maybe that should be my word… wonder. 😉


      Oh, Charity… I think you forgot to mention things like poverty and human trafficking and fires and natural disasters. I’m still processing the beheadings. Some time back I deleted a post of my own that related to the psychodogs and headless things because suddenly it wasn’t funny. And then yesterday I scrolled past a photo of a bloody head in an inbox (a joke played on someone) that any other time would have been funny. It’s all so heavy. I’m not sure I’m smiling as much these days.

      I’m finding it more difficult to engage in the conversations because voices shout down voices. I did dare to post about Cecil the other day but deleted it after a handful of replies. (In the past I’ve read that callousness toward animals often leads to callousness toward people–that many times those in prison often had a history of animal abuse. I even hesitate to say that because even it might evoke an angry response.) I end up questioning my own views because often I can see both sides–which I guess can be a good thing and a bad thing because when I don’t engage in a conversation, it may appear that I don’t care. So I just listen.

      I don’t turn the news on as much any more. Sometimes I scroll past most of the outrage here because frankly, I’m saturated and sometimes feel battered with it all–while at the same time knowing if somebody doesn’t keep talking about the issues, most of us will ignore them. I don’t think it’s affected my faith because I have to believe that in spite of out out of control the world seems, God is still in control. I don’t know why He’s allowing everything–well, maybe I do–but I can’t fix it all. I can just spoon out a little love here and there. And look for the beauty. Maybe that’s how I’m dealing with it. Looking for the beauty and the light. Because surely that overcomes, right? And all our teaspoons and bird rescues add up.

      Maybe I’ll try writing a little poetry about it all. Nobody seems to yell at poets. They just claim to not understand them. Ha.

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        Sandy – You and I are feeling the same tugs, struggling with the same difficulties over all of this. And I think your desire to find beauty and light are a wonderful solution. I’m sure the Apostle Paul was dealing with some of the same excess of outrage and sadness in the world when he told the Philippians to think only about what is good and right and lovely. Not that we can’t engage over these difficult issues, but even in the midst of them, we need to look for what is true.

        Thank you for entering into this space with me for a few minutes. It’s helpful to hear your perspective.

      • carol longenecker hiestand ,

        Oh Charity. This right here, what you have said is the way I have been feeling. I find my preferred way of handling it all is just to ignore it all. I like what you have said here. i remember earlier this spring journaling – wondering what i really believed anymore and I remembered the song “the Creed” by Petra, my sons used to listen to…and I decided at last “I believe in God the Father, maker of Heaven and Earth and in Jesus Christ His only son, born of a Virgin birth………And I gained some perspective and peace. .

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Carol – You and I have similar strategies. I decided to start reading the Gospels again, to be reminded of the good that Jesus did, even in his moment by moment life. People flocked to him — some with selfish motives of course — because he was so good. I think some of the Creeds our early Fathers put together would be a good place to go too, because I suspect some of those creeds were developed in order to make sense out of chaos swirling around.

          Thanks for your comment.