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What is the true meaning of “turn the other cheek?”
The Guide: To break the vicious circle of negative interaction between human beings. You, on your path, have often discovered this insidious vicious circle that goes on and on, forever perpetuating negativity between persons by justifying one’s own destructive attitude, by dint of the other person’s destructive attitude. Of course it is always so much easier to see the destructiveness in the other and consider it as the reason, the primary cause of one’s own response.
It really has the same meaning as “do not resist evil.” Again I want to emphasize not to confuse this with passive endurance when it may be appropriate to stand up and fight for what is right. Turn the other cheek merely means to use your powers of differentiation, to judge when fighting back may be perpetuation of aggression and further involvement into evil with no purpose and no chance of dissolving the negative interaction.
Perhaps we can say that positive assertion can happen fruitfully only when you are truly filled with one single motive: to further the will of God; to express the Christ in you; to expose yourself, to stand up for the truth without personal gain in any way or on any level.
When you fight, you must fight for – for the truth, for justice, for a good cause – rather than against – against someone who has angered you. When you are motivated by the cause of God, rather than by your self-will and your pride, you will feel strong and secure and therefore not inhibited by guilt.
Turn the other cheek means, in a different terminology, to let go of your self-righteous case and look into yourself, where you may possibly be contributing to the negative interaction, where you are perhaps provoking the aggressive action of your opponent. It is a habit you must practice over and over again.
You must learn to give up the temptation to stand for a self-righteous position that can always be rationalized by total concentration on the other person’s wrongs. Sometimes these wrongs actually exist. Other times they only exist in your wishful thinking, in your distortions, in your wish not to take responsibility for your lower self. Fighting with such an attitude is indeed damaging and perpetuates evil.
On this Path, you learn that the victim is often as responsible as the perpetrator. And what a liberation this is! Only when you live this injunction will you find secure self-esteem and genuine strength to fight when it is desirable and necessary. The shackles you now so often feel when you know, in your mind, that fighting would be appropriate, are exactly the result of fighting in the wrong way – of insisting on your self-righteous position without looking into yourself.
So “turn the other check” means precisely to interrupt this vicious circle by taking responsibility oneself, by looking at the issue in a new light and with a fresh approach. As you have so often witnessed, this immediately dispels the destructiveness on both sides and creates unity, understanding and love. In short, Christ can reign in the soul and consciousness of those involved in such interaction.