Reader Email: “You aren’t the only one searching.”
Date: January 18, 2009 3:15:02 PM EST
Subject: Cheek turning
Thanks for opening the conversation on spirituality. I actually have a pretty good story that’s related to turning the other cheek, so I thought I would share…
There was this guy I knew in high school (I’ll call him K). He was very angry, the kind of guy that you might call a meathead if you didn’t know him better and realize that he had a lot of crappy stuff happen to him that caused him to be the way that he was. You know, alcoholic dad, neglect, abuse, etc. Anyway, because of his background, K was angry – at everything. He would get in a fight at the drop of a hat and was heading toward big trouble if he didn’t calm down and get this issue under control.
I knew him because we were in a youth group together – actually, it wasn’t really a youth group, there were just some cool “adults” from our church that let us go to their house and eat their food and watch their TV so that we didn’t go somewhere worse. And this couple was amazing. Totally loved us despite our issues. And we loved them so much, would have done anything for them, they had our total devotion. And this couple kept trying to get angry K to “turn the other cheek.” But it wasn’t working.
One day K was in a mini-rage. He was pissed at something (minor) – I don’t even remember the issue anymore. So the husband in the couple (I’ll call him G) walked straight up to K, looked up at him, and with his full strength, G wound up and slapped K across the face. Hard. I mean, he decked him.
K was kind of stunned. G was a very docile guy and K was not, and he just didn’t expect that to happen. But as K was sputtering and trying to catch his breath, G very slowly, very quietly said to him: Now, K. Turn. the. other. cheek.
I could visibly see K struggling to do this – to actually be able to turn his head to the other side so that G could slap him again. But after what seemed like an eternity (it was probably about 30 seconds), K turned his face to expose the cheek that G didn’t hit the first time. At that, G grapped K and started to hug him, tears were streaming down both their faces and they stayed that way for a very long time.
It was only then, after K actually turned the other cheek – to someone who he loved and trusted who had wronged him so badly – that he understood what it meant. Turning the other cheek is the ultimate self-sacrifice – the willingness to let a wrong go with no retribution or punishment – the acceptance of injustice with no requirement for pay back.
But it’s also true freedom. Because after this, K let go of the anger and the rage. Sure he struggled at times. But if, out of love, he didn’t punish G for the wrong that was done to him and in fact was willing to let G wrong him yet again, K realized that he could turn the other cheek to the lesser wrongs, as well.
Anyway, that’s the story. Hope you like it. And I also wanted to tell you that you aren’t the only one searching. A group of us get together on Tuesday nights at Panera bread for a group called “SEEK” – where we try to expore our questions about spirituality together. It’s interesting, enlightening (sometimes) and occasionally annoying. But it’s real.
Good luck with your search. I’ll be “with” you through it. 🙂