In my article “The dualism of Oppressor and Oppressed” I shared one way of observing the phenomena of the Oppressor and the Oppressed. But there is also a very different way of seeing it.
It is quite easy to be baffled by what Jesus had in mind when he said to turn the other cheek to our oppressor. Many people think that such behavior may be suitable for “holy” people, or otherwise people that are anything other than regular people – like ‘me’. After all, “an eye for an eye”, makes much more sense to many of us. But this is just a cultural thing. We have been programmed – literally – with concepts such as “an eye for an eye” from our earliest days. These concepts, being mostly subconscious, have become a part of what we consider the “I” to be.
Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek is very profound, insightful, true and – believe it or not – practical for our own time, for you and I.
The Oppressor uses the elicitation of fear in the Oppressed, to achieve that which they wish to have. The only way the Oppressor can achieve anything from the Oppressed, is through co-operation from the Oppressed. The Oppressed co-operates against their better judgement when being in the grips of fear, being fully aware that co-operating in this case is wrong. Once the Oppressed co-operates once, their resistance weakens and they begin to co-operate on a regular basis, essentially becoming slaves.
The Oppressed is you and I
When Jesus says to turn the other cheek, he is well aware that doing so is going to hurt. Jesus is far from being delusional. He knows that it’s going to hurt, and we too must understand that it’s going to hurt. When we turn the other cheek, with the understanding that it’s going to hurt, we have just annihilated our own fear. We have just become free. The Oppressor cannot do anything without our co-operation. They may slap our other cheek – figuratively speaking or not – again and again, and with each time that they do, and get the other cheek turned at them, they realize just how powerless they are.
Using words such as Oppressor and Oppressed, may conjure up thoughts about circumstances that may be extreme, aggressive or even violent. But much more often, the situations are far from that and may occur in, what most people would call “normal relationships”, where the notion of an Oppressor/Oppressed may not immediately come to mind. Sometimes, a simple smile (or the withdrawal of one), may be used as a tool by an oppressor to achieve what they want from the oppressed. And of course the extreme situations of physical, mental and emotional abuse, bullying etc’, are always there, and for some, that’s the only reality that they have ever known.
We already know what the world looks like when we succumb to threats and to our own fear. Very few of us have ever seriously considered turning the other cheek because it seems too foolish and self destructive…
… but what if we do turn the other cheek?
A few years ago I was dealing with illness. My doctors were unable to diagnose it and I was dealing with severe skeletal pain that originated with the joints and gradually spread to connective tissue and bones. I lived in constant pain for over a year.
At one point, in a moment of utter despair, I communicated with my pain. I said: “Go ahead, hurt me. Show me what’s the worst that you can do to me. I’m ready.”
In the moments that followed, I realized to my amazement, (and believe it or not, disappointment), that the pain was diminishing. I wasn’t sure whether I was imagining things, or whether the pain was “having a bad day”. Perhaps I was being misunderstood by the pain, or never actually communicated with it in the first place. Regardless, the next time that I was hurting I repeated this strange communication.
Every single time that I did, the results were the same.
I learned something profound; Fearing the pain increased it, while accepting and knowing it was coming, decreased it.
When we turn the other cheek with the knowledge, acceptance and expectation that it’s going hurt, it doesn’t hurt as much as it would when we fear the pain and do the best that we can to avoid it.
Pain itself has taught me this and I am passing it on to you.