There is a lot of the human condition that is difficult to understand. Inside of so many of us, there is some kind of a need to build ego by hurting someone else. I think we’ve all had our share of gossip in this life. When we become the target, nothing is more hurtful because it is our very nature to be social animals. It is that instinct that drives social media and blogging. It becomes a quick addiction, not because it is chemically taking over our bodies, but because our basic need as a member of the human race is to share life with others. When someone else turns on the hose of gossip, we feel ashamed whether the gossip is true or not. It’s almost as if we need acceptance more than we need the knowledge of knowing we are good people in spite of what others say.
The sensitive among us handle bullying in different ways. Some bow down and beg forgiveness even when they didn’t commit the deed of accusation. Some strike out against the another person closest to them in order to fight their way back to the top again. Some become emotional hermits. Some just walk away. The reaction of choice is totally up to us. The question is, which action is most likely to get results and which one is more likely to cause even more contempt?
Biblical Jesus is well known for saying, “Turn the other cheek.” What is interesting about this illusion is that we take it out of context. Once you get the Biblical circumstance out of ancient Jerusalem, zealots have been given the reins to interpret the stories and words of Biblical messages into the most interesting twists. Most of us think that this way of dealing with bullies and adversaries is to just take it; to lie on the floor and take the beating. In fact, back in ancient times turning the other cheek had a far different meaning. If the ancients are slapped in the face by any Roman who demanded their submission, it was with the back of the hand. Most are right handed, which means that they would smack the left side of the cheek. However, if you turn the other cheek, then the perpetrator has no means to hit you. The left hand was used for what was deemed as unclean purposes, so a strike with the back of the hand on the opposite cheek would not happen. Interestingly, a statement of equality to the ancients would be to slap the submissive person with an open hand. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted is demanding equality. Essentially, you are taking control over the actions of your adversary if you turn the other cheek, and putting yourself on equal footing. You are preventing him from victimizing you. Thus, becoming a doormat for abuse suddenly becomes a move toward, not defense but a call for peaceful respect.
Many of us have experienced the psychology of bullying from someone who won’t let go. My ex’s wife is still stalking me after 15 years of our divorce. With Biblical inferences, I have “turned the other cheek”. I have taken down every internet site that she trolled and infiltrated. Even my gratitude journal lies in wait of secrets she will never know. I simply took away the source of her power. By turning the other cheek, I emptied her resources of abuse. Yet, there was no retaliation, no vengeance, or retribution. I did not troll her in return, place hurtful posts so she could see them through some psychological manipulation of vengeance. I merely took away her attempt to invade my privacy and throw me under the bus of her choice. This is the way of peace.
When a woman is abused in a failed marriage, turning the other cheek might mean dismantling her conditions and walk away. If she feels threatened that there will be retaliation, then the peaceful way to deal with this, or any situation is to take away the power of the perpetrator. This is the idea behind restraining orders and legal interventions. This is, in context of our day, “turning the other cheek”. It is non-violent and non-submissive.
It is with wisdom that we realize vengeance is nonproductive in not just the life of the target, but in our own lives. Anger actually takes a toll on the body. It raised blood pressure, increases stress, causes anxiety, headaches and actually interferes with our circulation. Just five minutes of anger can hinder our immune system for over six hours. The body doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if the hatred is directed at the self or someone else. The physical results are the same.
To the next time you engage in gossip and raise yourself up by putting someone else down, remember that it is self-destructive. And the next time it is being done to you, remember to “turn the other cheek” by taking away the fuel of the perpetrator.