Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm Turning the Other Cheek

CheekImage via Wikipedia
I'm inspired to write this post by a friend who sent me a tweet last night asking me how I was doing. She also mentioned that she hadn't seen me on Twitter much over the past week. Touched by her concern, I replied back letting her know that I was OBE: overwhelmed by events.

It seems like since I've gotten back from my trip to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, people back home here in Los Angeles have all gone a little crazy. Not that they weren't crazy before I left, just that it seems like they've taken crazy to a whole new level. Unfortunately for me, this new level of crazy involves pulling me into situations that require my attention. So I've decided to turn the other cheek.

You're probably wondering right about now, "What in the world does she mean?" So let me explain.

You see, I've been thinking about the way I've been handling the recent set of circumstances presented to me. While I am not particularly religious person, I still do want to try to be a good human being and handle things in the best way possible. Given my Catholic upbringing, I guess there's a little bit of What would Jesus do? floating around inside me. Which got me thinking about what Jesus said: If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Concerned that maybe I hadn't responded in this manner, I decided to do a little research and figure out what this command really means. What I discovered is that you can't truly understand what this statement means unless you understand it in context. In the case of this phrase, this is what I learned:

From Wikipedia: "A literal interpretation of the passages, in which the command refers specifically to a manual strike against the side of a person's face, can be supported by reference to historical and other factors. At the time of Jesus, striking someone deemed to be of a lower class with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person "turned the other cheek," the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. The other alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect demanding equality."

I admit that this discovery was an unexpected but pleasant surprise. All these years, I thought that statement meant I was to somehow tolerate mistreatment, to ignore it and not respond to it. I am comforted to know that it actually encourages me to stand up for myself and asked for better treatment in the face of injustice.

Furthermore, I am pleased to share with you that how I've chosen to respond to the recent challenges presented to me has been to demand to be treated with respect, to have my voice be heard and to have my rights be honored. Yes, I have demanded my equality in ways that have been assertive, not aggressive.

I share this with you today because I think my recent experiences hold a message for all of us living with chronic illness.

As another friend mentioned over the weekend, sometimes healthy people see those of us who are sick as weak and vulnerable and try to take advantage of us. Because living with chronic illness does sometimes mean we are less able to stand up for ourselves, we may unwittingly find ourselves in a position of being less than.

In those moments I believe we need to find the courage to stand up for ourselves and say, "It's not okay for you to treat me unjustly."

In so many ways, living with chronic illness is hard. And this is on top of how hard just trying to live life and get along with other people can be sometimes. Thank goodness for the heavenly guidance that we can take a stand and not let life, or chronic illness, beat us up or take us down. I wholeheartedly agree that sometimes the only way to get equality is to believe that we deserve it and demand it from others.

In light of what I know now, I can now always feel good about turning the other cheek.

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Migrainista said...

Good for you! It can be a real challenge to find that right balance of standing up for ourselves effectively. I've found that being a woman and being chronically ill have made it more of a challenge. I'm still working on figuring out how to really do this well.

Laurie said...

I know that I need to percolate on things internally when someone has done me wrong. as you have given me such good advice, I offer this to you."Do unto others....." sometimes it's harder to say "no" than "yes" but it is worth it. i have chosen to only be with people with positive energy, not people who you know give off negative energy. I try to trust my gut instinct and every time I go against it...I regret it. I think if you go with human kindness (which I KNOW you possess)you can and SHOULD, take a stand and feel fine about it. it may take a little time to get used to as all major changes need, but i have no doubt that you can do it. i know this in my heart.http://hibernationnow.wordpress.com

Felicia Fibro said...

I have always found the historical references in that biblical story to be fascinating!

The way you wrote your post, I'm assuming that you got the respect you deserved...good for you!

Anonymous said...

Great blog!
That particular passage always bothered me too. A pastor that I very much respect gave a sermon explaining what you learned that gave me clarity as well. Unless you think about the fact that most people are right handed and to be slapped on YOUR right cheek does, in fact, mean that you've been back handed, we come away thinking we need to except abuse in order to be 'good' people.
I certainly have felt this way for the biggest part of my life. Chronic illness is abuse enough, we don't have to 'take it' from hurtful people as well.

Thanks, as always, Celina!

Anonymous said...

Opps! I mean Selena.

Lana C. said...

Sometimes it is truly not worth fighting back because it is senseless and the person starting it will only be spurned onward out of their warped mindset. Your thought process on this matter is very interesting and makes sense. So much of the customs and culture of that day is lost to us...turning the cheek has its place, but so does turning your back and walking away without looking back, also from the Bible.
Hope you are doing well!

Lana C.