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.