Jesus is often quoted as saying, If someone slaps you in the face, turn the other cheek so that can be slapped too.
What did he mean by that piece of seemingly idiotic advice?
What are the chances of someone coming up to you in the street and slapping you in the face? Very slim. Usually there’s a prequel to the slap, like an argument, a misunderstanding or an exchange of insults. Anger grows, fists clench and suddenly the first blow is struck and you move in to throw the second.
All that’s on your mind is revenge. It’s payback time!
Your fist connects with their jawbone. They retaliate with a quick jab that breaks your nose. There’s blood on the pavement. You slip. They kick . . . Police sirens . . .
We’ll never know what would’ve happened if you had chosen to turn the other cheek.
Jesus is talking about non-escalation. He’s advising against demanding revenge.
It may not be a literal turning of the cheek. It may be that you step back, or put your hands up with palms out as a way of saying, Hold it. Or you run away, very fast.
Revenge isn’t sweet. It’s madness.
Revenge makes things worse.
I read a children’s book years ago about a skinny boy and a beefy bully. I can’t remember the title, author, or plot, but I do remember one scene. The skinny boy tries to avoid the bully but, inevitably, he meets him in a lonely side street, and the circling and teasing begins. The boy knows he’s beaten before the first blow, but he does his best to fend off the punches. Within minutes he’s a bleeding, broken mess.
‘You had enough?’ the bully asks.
‘If you have,’ the boy replies.
The boy’s response is powerful, worthy of being in the Bible.
His answer — If you have — gave the bully a window of opportunity to notice what he was doing, what he wanted. How much of this bullying did he want to keep doing?
The boy was sacrificing himself to show the bully what the bully was. The bully experienced a breakthrough. He was offered a doorway out of his obsessive compulsion to hurt others. The skinny boy didn’t need to learn to fight. The bully needed to see — really see — what he was doing to himself, what he was creating.
A miracle happened in that side street.
Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks:
This is the miracle: behind every condition, person, or situation that appears “bad” or “evil” lies concealed a deeper good. That deeper good reveals itself to you — both within and without — through inner acceptance of what is.
“Resist not evil” is one of the highest truths of humanity.
Turning the other cheek gives the person in the wrong an opportunity to see what he or she is doing. It puts space around what is occurring.
Jesus isn't saying you must turn the other cheek. It’s an example, an idea you could follow. He’s expanding the principle of not seeking revenge. If someone drags you to court to force you to give them your coat, give him your trousers, too. And perhaps hand over your shoes as well. Then wait for the miracle.
Most of the conflict in our lives doesn’t happen in the street. It occurs at work, in the classroom or at home. An impatient boss riles us. A rude customer makes our eyes narrow. A naughty child frustrates us. How does turning the other cheek help us in these situations?
When partners quarrel, voices get louder. What if one chooses to speak softer?
When a boss demands an overdue report, a calm response graced with a smile changes the feeling in the room.
Psychologists and counselors develop the art of listening intently and asking interesting, open questions to diffuse anger. That's a type of turning the other cheek.
What does turning the other cheek do?
It changes two people.
Living with mindfulness
It takes two to tango. It takes two to fight. It takes two to make things worse.
It takes one person to make things better.
With love, Marlane
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First published on Medium.com/Illumination