My cheeks were glowing red and stinging, I might have cried, I can’t remember.
A group of us 8 or 9-year-old kids were playing a school ground game during break-time. It was one of those typical chilly Highveld winters days when the air is crisp and fresh. During the game, a disagreement ensued, and I came face to face with him. He wasn’t a big boy, but he made up for his size with his arrogant and aggressive demeanour.
When he threatened to beat me up, I backed down saying I didn’t want to fight. He said he will beat me up anyway. I offered him my right cheek and said: Here you go. Without hesitating he slapped me on the cheek. He hit me hard. I slowly turned my face to offer my left cheek. He slapped me with his right hand, this time harder. As I turned the other cheek, he dished out another stinging slap to my face.
I don’t remember if a crowd of kids had gathered or if it was just him and me while this was happening. All I saw was him in front of me. Each time as I turned my cheek one way then the other, he lashed out another smack. The standoff only ended because the school bell rang for the end of break time.
It wasn’t until much later in my life that I learned the true meaning of the phrase: Turn the other cheek.
Turning the other cheek is a phrase in Christian doctrine from the Sermon on the Mount. It refers to responding to offence without revenge. Many interpretations imply passiveness or non-resistance on the part of the victim. It has also been interpreted to embarrass a bully.
Yet, I have learned it is more than pacifism.
When we live with a generous heart, our point of departure, our demeanour, is that of a servant leader. The concept of, “Turning the other cheek” is a modern-day version of, “An eye for an eye.” Where the latter calls for fairness in the face of injustice, the former speaks of finding a better way. A third way.
A more dignified and noble way.
The tit-for-tat method of finding justice leaves both parties feeling aggrieved. An eye for an eye is a reaction to an action. We react when we are confronted by hitting back. It often comes from our gut, without thinking. A reaction is never conducive to progress. For there to be progress, we first need to take a deep breath and rather respond.
Stop. Think. Act.
Stopping to think about your response is a proactive way to address conflict. It slows things down and helps calm the situation. It’s about typing the sentence and not hitting send.
Turning the other cheek was never intended for you to be the lesser. It wasn’t a license to accept abuse. It’s not that at all. It’s about taking back power. The power to respond. Through being a servant-leader, it’s possible to live a life of generosity. By being generous, the conflict is nullified and you can move to a place of harmony.
Looking back on that crisp winter’s day, I can reflect on what the true reason was behind turning the other cheek.
It was a show of love.
And although the outcome was not as noble as the bully backing down, I hope like me, he has learned that love always wins.
HT – Rudi Swanepoel
Have an awesome weekend, stay safe! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏