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The Other Cheek is Your Turn

September 13, 2013

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak in Madison.

I didn’t really know what to expect, honestly – I’d never heard the man speak before, and I never managed to finish reading his book. I did know that I read some things he’d said and agreed with them, and that he was the leader of a huge faith in our world. I’d probably go see the pope, too, if he was as accessible as the Dalai Lama was.

He said several things that day that have stayed with me since then. I’ll share one with you tonight.

He said that we have long misunderstood the act of “Turning the Other Cheek”. In our western culture, it is equated with weakness, with being taken advantage of. While it is seemingly a Christian value, it is often positioned as a holier-than-thou moment or condescending forgiveness. But the Dalai Lama wanted us to understand that it was truly an act of a powerful person to turn the other cheek.

When someone acts aggressively towards us, they are taking an action upon us. To react with fight or flight is to RE-ACT; in essence, to behave in accordance with their action upon us instead of choosing how we wish to behave. In that way, that person gains control of us.

If you turn the other cheek – if you choose not to react to their action – you are in control. You are in power over your place in the world. You choose not to go to a place someone else leads you to, but to where you wish to be.

This doesn’t just belong in physical activity of aggression and escape, but in our words and social interactions. If someone approaches me with aggression – accusation, anger, the like, if I respond with defensiveness or retreat from the situation by giving up/giving in, I am allowing them to have control over my actions. Instead, I must stand with assertiveness and not allow their behavior to dictate mine.

The hardest part is…Sometimes that aggressor is Me.

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