Ana Barrio recently sent me a good question. I want to share this question with you
and my reply to it. See below.
We have continued to meet for Affinity with some of the retreat participants: my mother, Tita, Carlota (the lady from Spain), Ana Cristina, and myself.
We have started studying the book From Fear to Love (from the retreat in Vermont), and as we were studying the Forgiveness teaching, a question arose.
You have a paragraph that says, "Turning the other cheek does not mean that you forget. It does not mean that you back down and remain a victim. On the contrary. It requires that you find your voice, that you learn to stand up for yourself and be seen and heard. All this is necessary. As I have said many times, there is no forgiveness without correction."
I believe that the concept of "turning the other cheek" is one that is often misinterpreted and that can cause a lot of pain.
Could you share more with us on what "turning the other cheek" means? From that paragraph I understand that it is about standing up for yourself and speaking your truth, setting boundaries... but how is that turning the other cheek? I guess the ordinary sense of turning the other cheek, the one where you allow yourself to be beaten is very embedded in our culture and I would like to see beyond that...
Can you shed some light on this?
This is a good question. We must remember to strive for what honors us and others too.
When I am attacked, I have three choices. The first one is to attack back.
This perpetuates the cycle of violence.
The second one is to run away or back down. This gives the perpetrator permission to attack me again and reinforces my victimhood..
When Jesus told us to "turn the other cheek, he was suggesting a third and more
effective choice. Essentially that choice means to stand up for yourself without
attacking back. By standing firm and opposing injustice, we do not lose our voice and
become a victim nor do we perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Turning the other cheek says to the other: "See me for who I really am. Do not
objectify me and seek to justify your attack. Your attack is wrong and not justifiable.
By turning my unblemished cheek I offer you a choice to see who I really am,
as an equal brother or sister. I uphold my right to be seen and heard and treated as an equal.
This is the essence of Jesus' teaching (and the Hindu teaching of Ahimsa) which led to Ghandi's non-violent revolution in India and to the non violent struggle of the civil rights movement in the US led by Martin Luther King.