Turning the Other Cheek: A Closer Look
The idea behind turning the other cheek, a religious injunction that has gained secular popularity, albeit in a derogatory sense, is to let someone go as far as they wish if they want to hurt or deprive you. That is, to let them exhaust their sinister intentions, or at least let them have a little more of it than they might have even thought possible at the moment.
Think about this just a moment: someone slaps you, even if you may have deserved it, and the next thing you do is let them have the other cheek. At first it may seem like a really laudable virtue, but just imagine if, during the great wars of the twentieth century, Britain and the USA had allowed Germany continue sinking merchant ships and even warships after Germany had conducted some air raids. Or perhaps, you allow a rogue rape your daughter after stealing your property. That would very well pass for turning the other cheekand for foolishness too!
Some of you, at this point, are already wondering whether Im not going a little extreme with this, but what is good for the gander should also be good for the goose. If its okay to let someone slap your other cheek because he had the cheek to slap the first one, then maybe it would make even better sense to let someone have your job after taking your spouse.
Okay, okay, fineI heard your objections. Perhaps we should really delineate that admonition and ask ourselves if we sincerely believe that its okay to turn the other cheek the way we know it to be, or, maybe, we can scan this statement under a different hue of light and get results that are more agreeable to practicality.
You see, some diehard pacifists have postulated that if someone were to strike you on one cheek and you offered them the other, they would lose the willpower to keep the assault on. But it does not follow. We know for a fact that each one owes his destiny to himself, and if you leave your well-being to the stretch or shortness of anothers conscience, you become vulnerable to their every whim. So if their conscience has been seared with hot iron, youre doomed.
Understand this: people seek unlimited power, and anytime anyone becomes conscious of the possibility of taking you for a ride, then your days of freedom are numbered. Youll live the rest of your life in servitude. But you stand up for yourself and the evil slave driver will be forced to back off. Those in political circles and the armed forces understand this perfectly: failure to build your own power is invitation to trouble.
You dont believe? Well, thats your business. Wait till your vast reserves of potential are outclassed by your many wasted years, then ask your contemporaries of the past why they ride on wheels of progress while you are still legging your way through life, or even worse, crawling on your belly. That is if youre even able to see their brake lights again.
So what are we supposed to make of this supposedly divine admonition to turn the other cheek?
My first suggestion is that you forget vengeance. You see, the quest for revenge is almost a choking one in all of us, even the apparently soft people. It takes the truly strong, even when all the means are available to exact their pound of flesh, to extend grace in lieu to those who have hurt them.
In saying that, I am not an advocate of the leave it for God or God will judge maxim of the weak, but I would say this with all due respect to your feelings: To err is human; to forgive is divine. You may have heard this axiom several times and even grown to hate hearing it because you think it will make others trample you underfoot, but nothing could be farther from the truth. You must forgive!
When, however, people ask you to forgive and forget, what they really mean is that you should make yourself more vulnerableand I wouldnt advise that. Lets face the fact: there is a God and you are not Him. Only God possesses the power to truly forgive and forget (atheists, please skip this part), and even that is a mind-boggling paradox for the Supreme Being who is omniscient, all-knowing.
Listen to this: God can safely forget because He knows where the sea of forgetfulness is and He can also, with pinpoint exactitude, pick out whichever part of your history is needed exactly wherever it is located on the map of that Great Sea when matters come to a head. As for man, we must try to forgive and forget within the ambit where amnesia will not occur. Yes, your graciousness shouldnt degenerate into memory loss in the name of piety (more on that in the next chapter), but if you allow a grudge to fester in your heart, the suffering is on you while the offender might well be enjoying life elsewhere. You should be rest assured that we are human and are therefore bound to err (whatever the intent), and then steel yourself against the surprises of such misdemeanor. Then, forgiveness will be easier.
If that is too hard for you, then imagine if all the people you ever offended decided to take it out on you. How would you feel? Now is the time to respect the Golden Rule. An eye for an eye, they say, leaves the whole world blind. (Heres our little secretkeep it between usI also hate hearing forgive and forget.)
Having taken the step of striking retaliation out as an option, heres a further idea: strike first! And just in case youre unable to do that, develop second-strike capability in your shock absorber as a back-up plan. You see, some people need some massive retaliation from you, but not at them. For example, in your office there could be persons who are avowed antagonists of your person, but if you settle it in your heart to do better all the time and always make friends with the right people in power, then any plan those foes of yours contrive will be difficult to implement because your records speak for you. Besides, they will fear a backlash if they are found out, since you have on your side the powers that be.
You see, it pays to be both smart (perceptive) and sharp (powerful). Dont forget that the first person who needs you is yourself; if you cant protect yourself, then how do you protect someone else? Let your strategy lie in your smartness, and your strength in your sharpness. In learning to strike first, you will need to draw attention away from your awareness of the antagonist (lest people suspect your every move as being against the other person). You must pretend not to know of their sinister intentions unless letting them know will keep them at bay.
Let me give you an example from my days in the secondary school. Seniors could come wake you up anytime to go do anything for them, so juniors devised a means of getting their own back somehow. They would be awake but pretend to be asleep, and when they knew they were being roused by a senior, they would suddenly fling their hands in the air, leaving the senior stunned with a slap. Immediately, the junior would apologize, citing the name of some troublesome classmate whom they had supposed was disturbing them again. Most times they would thus escape with just the errand and the very lucky ones might even be left to go back to sleep, but the less fortunate juniors, God help them.
Turning the other cheek is good advice when youre under persecution or oppression by an enemy against whom you have absolutely no power. I mean, you are simply no match for them. At that time it will be useful to acquiesce to their demands and go the second mile because, in fact, you are preparing your mind for when it will be your turn. You know what? When such a person gives you a hard task, carry it out with grace and complete it if you can. Then do just a little more and thank them for the opportunity. Leave them in no doubt that you are greater than them. When someone much stronger keeps beating you, and after screaming and crying you end up smiling the next time you meet them, you have overcome the evil in them with the good in you. As it is said, The best revenge is to be successful.
In a nutshell, Im saying that if there are any odds in your calculation that you could outwit or destroy your opponent, do it by all means. If you must fake a smile or a plea in order to buy time till you find something that gives you the advantage (for example, a weapon around or a means of escape if youre in a physical fight), please do it! Pretence isnt a bad thing when its for the greater good. Pretence, like money, yields itself to the whims of the one who wields it. It is always better to be the big man being magnanimous than the small man seeking mercy. Turn the other cheek but show a juicy carrot and a heavy stick. See if youll not be on top of the situation.