Story Wonders: Why Turning the Other Cheek Doesn’t Mean Rolling Over and How It is So Freaking Hard

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Many years before crows feet landed under my eyes, I read a book about forgiveness.

I had long thought that forgiveness meant you just sucked it up, whatever someone did to you and then tried to move on. Over time, this became unsustainable. I could not keep walking away, biting my tongue, or taking the hits. My feet hurt, my tongue bled, and my arms bruised from the practice.

Then I found this book.

(I can’t find it now. I’m sure I gave it to someone, and I think it was my father, who worked so hard to let things go and not be angry.

A few minutes of scanning Amazon and the wide web did not find it. I’ll be sure to post it if I ever do come across it.)

The book said things that made me question what I thought I knew about Christianity.

It explained that turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving up your cloak–all things Jesus insisted we do–actually were forms of non-violent resistance.

If you turned the other cheek, for example, the Roman soldier hitting you would either have to punch you like an equal or give up slapping you as an inferior.

In other words, Jesus did not advise that we roll over and become doormats.

He did not advise that we turn away from injustice or the pain. Martin Luther King, Jr. also wrote of this third respond to violence-not returning the cruelty or passively accepting it but defying it in a way that values everyone involved.

At first I was sure my new understanding of turning my cheek was fabulous. Then I discovered how terrifying it is to creatively and compassionately stand up for what I believe is right while giving the other the chance to change.

It’s hardest, I discovered, when I want to protect my son or another loved one.

Last week, I listened to Rob Bell revisit these ideas about Jesus’ often misunderstood advice. Bell gives a much fuller picture of the historical context if you are thirsty for more.

And so I’m looking for more ways to do this and, because it works best, I am starting small.

How, for example, can I creatively address aggressive behavior in traffic?

How can I talk to people who disagree with me politically without shutting them down or withdrawing into my comfortable shell surrounded by people who only ever agree with me? (Okay. This is not small. Perhaps I’d better start with my son’s meltdowns over his brother’s teasing instead.)

When I am honest, doormat is my default. I’m grateful Martin Luther King pulls me up off the floor and chastises me for this, telling me that is only allowing violence to continue.

And so I keep at it in my small way, one act at a time, trusting that I’ll get better with wholehearted practice.

Do wish me luck, grace, peace, and all that jazz. I’ll need it.

Update! Beth the librarian extraordinaire found the book. She added ‘Jesus comics’ to the keywords. What didn’t I think of that? Here it is!

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Story Wonders: Finding the Courage to March and Write

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I didn’t want to write about this because I am afraid. I am afraid that people I know and care about will think less of me because I went to the Women’s March last Saturday. I’m afraid they’ll be angry or disapprove.

But every time I started to think about what to write this week, the march is the only thing that wanted to be written.

I posted before about how crushed I felt after the election. It is beyond my understanding that a man so clearly abusive to women could defeat the first woman candidate for president.

I know. These are fighting words.

As Brene Brown said: “I don’t know Donald Trump so the most respectful thing I can do is take him at his word. And, when it comes to women, immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, and our Muslim sisters and brothers, his words have been threatening and dehumanizing. I march to say that’s not acceptable or American. That is not the heart of the country I love.”

While this, honestly, got me moving that morning, something about marching against someone doesn’t sit well for me. My friend Diane helped with this.

First, she listened as I tried to tell my six year old why we were marching. I started by saying that we were not happy with the man who had won the election has said and done. My friend reframed it for both my little guy and me.

She said, “I like to think of it more as standing up for what we do want.”

Another woman had this to say:

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I agree with Diane, Mother Theresa, and so many others. My best self did not go to protest Trump. I went to say what matters to me most. That was the spirit I felt in Olympia, Washington, and what I saw in the crowds of pink hats from around the world.

The feeling of being there at my smaller 10,000 person march full of peaceful men, women, and children reminded me of a step back into time. I saw folks I am sure were there in the sixties. I saw young people. I saw people in crazy outfits. I saw angry signs and ones fun of humor.

When I think on what I experienced there and what I saw in the pictures around the world, I couldn’t help but remember the Whos chanting with every once of sound they had to be heard so Sour Kangaroo would not throw them in a boiling vat.

We know the election is finished, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still here and paying attention. It doesn’t mean we don’t need each other more than ever.

Of course, I loved the marching band’s way of putting music to the words. (Didn’t the Whos have a tuba?) I would love to know who they are, so I could play next time!

Of everything I saw that day, I think my favorite was the Diane’s daughter Rena in her Captain America outfit with a a sign that said ‘Be a hero. Stand up for ALL Americans.” She even had a shield. Cars stopped to honk, smile and wave for her several times. (I wish you could see her better in my photo!)

Something about Captain America and what we tried to do with the march expressed that need to say what we meant.

I’m still scared to publish this, by the way, but maybe, Mr. Gaiman has a sliver of good news for me.

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Maybe, I’m stating to get it right because writing this sure feels more like ‘walking down the street naked, exposing too much.’ More exposing than even marching on a clear cold day for something I believe.

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