Recently I heard a man threaten a woman in a public gathering. Now, I have to admit, right at the start, that I feel ashamed for doing nothing. I know I should have stood up between him and where she was sitting. I hope God forgave me for that.
I could give a lot of reasons why I shouldn't have become involved, but none of them wash in the end. This man is an admitted "rager." He threatens people on a regular basis. I was stunned by the hate the flowed from him, but I know he acts that way, and should have had the presence of mind to do more than all the others who were witness to his anger.
Later, I was told that "we should turn the other cheek." What a cowards way out of this situation. Don't misunderstand. I wholly subscribe to Jesus admonition in Luke 6:29, "And unto him that smiteth thee on one cheek, offer also the other." But, let's clear up the meaning of His command. It's so simple, I'm embarrassed to even try to clarify it. You don't fight fire with fire. That's it. Don't hit back. It's no more than good psychology. Violence for violence doesn't solve anything. It only prolongs the problem, while probably making an additional one.
What I'd like to know, is what the hell does turn the other cheek have to do with telling a person that their behavior stinks? I'm afraid people have gotten locked into the notion that to be a Christian, and turn the other cheek, means you have to turn into a wimp. And I do have to admit that I've seen a lot of wimpy Christians in my life. But I like to feel that it's because they're grossly misinformed.
If you stand up to someone and get hit, don't fight back.Notice I didn't say don't defend yourself. You see, when a person is out of line, it's only their way of asking for help. Any shadetree phychologist knows that the bully craves discipline, not spanking. They want to be told that they are misbehaving.
It looks to me like people think that turning the other cheek
means that you have to lay down and let people walk all over you
in the name of Love. But again I say, turning the other cheek
has only to do with defending yourself from physical violence.
What about all the times in the Bible we're told to exhort,
rebuke, reprove, admonish those around us? Especially those of
the faith. Here's a short study on three of those words.
REPROVE:(S1651) convict, convince, tell a fault
REBUKE:(S1651) convict, convince, tell a fault
REBUKED:(S2008) censure, charge
ADMONISH:(S3560) caution, warn
ADMONISHED:(S3867) exhort, recommend something different
(The S numbers indicate listings in Strong's Concordance)
ADM:2Thes 3:15 warn those who don't live by the gospel
Acts 27:9 Paul tells the captain not to sail in bad weather
Heb 8:5(S5537) Moses warned by God to get the tabernacle
right REP:Eph 5:11 convict unfruitful works of darkness
2Tim 4:2 reprove, rebuke, exhort fellow Christians
John 3:20 evil doers should be convicted, told a fault
REB:Luke 17:3 censure thy brother if he trespass
1Tim 5:20 convict sinners before everyone
2Tim 4:2 see above
Mk 1:25 Jesus rebukes a demon
Lu 9:55 Jesus rebukes disciple for wanting to kill
Lu 18:15 disciples rebuke the child-bringers
Now I'm no more than a new acquaintance to this hot tempered person. But there are many who claim to be his friends. I have reservations about that. You may remember that no one stood up to tell him that his anger was beyond social limits. Most of the people involved talked about "loving him out of his rage." Well the purest love, is Truth. And the best Truth, is immediate.
Let's take a look at the principle involved, by way of example. Does a parent never tell a child the truth? How long will mother pick up Johnny's socks before telling him that inconsiderate behavior brings a lot of stress into our lives. She doesn't say, "Now John, here's a story about a man who had a brother who always borrowed his tools and didn't return them." She does say, "Pick up your socks. That's sloppy."
Loving your way around another persons misbehavior is only prolonging their agony. Their misbehavior calls out for love and understanding. Not misdirection, avoidance, or diversion. How many of your friends would still call you friend if they realized you were hurting them on purpose? That's what happens when people try to love their friends out of anger by changing the subject, for instance. They're not addressing the plea of their friend. And just because the rage simmers down doesn't mean you treated the person in the most loving way. He just goes off and stews some more. I don't want to be lied to that way.
The purest way to love is to tell someone the absolute truth. Truth is love; Love is truth. And the best kind of love in "now" love. The best kind of Truth is "now" Truth.
I know that working with children can be very hard. But I have also learned that one way, one very good way, to address a child's misbehavior is to state objectively what the behavior is. In other words, you don't tell a boy he's being bad when he's yelling at you. You objectively state the facts of the situation. "Gee, John, you're really mad." In his request for attention, this recognition of his feelings becomes a reflection that he can see. That objective reflection will, most times, be all that's needed.
Now, what has that to do with turn the other cheek? Nothing, that's the point. It's a wholly different concept. We must remember that Love is active. It doesn't just sit around waiting for an object. Turn the other cheek proposes passivity. It says, "Defend yourself passively." If love is active, turn the other cheek is a 180 degree turn from love.
How can you love your neighbor by sitting in your front room thinking how much you love him? Don't you have to make some kind of contact? Don't you have to GO to him and show him that love? Love transits. Love moves from one to another with some kind of action that we can see. When you try to divert a friend from anger, you action is away from the friend toward the new subject. That's why diversion isn't love.
You know, we all go around asking our friends to fill our needs. In every contact we make with people, we are trying to fulfill our needs. Them, too. And we should always try to understand our friends needs and do what we can to help them out. Now, most of us express our needs in a sort of social code. Instead of coming right out and saying what we mean exactly. In fact, some of us use such a heavy code that it's nearly impossible to decipher. It becomes a lot of work just to try and figure out what some folks are trying to say.
Trying to crack someone else's code takes a lot of unselfishness. You have to stop, look between the lines, and mostly ignore the pride, hate or judgement that usually hides the real message. In other words, it takes love to be patient enough to see beneath some people's codes. Mostly, we'll find people don't want to work or love that hard. They just say things like, "I've learned just to stay out of his way." Too bad for both parties.
The more desperate we are to have a certain need filled, the louder or more aggressively we shout for help. The only way some people think they can get their point across, is by trying to commit suicide. More than once. Me idea is, that if you really want to kill yourself, you will. You're just talking in code when you take a bunch of pills, then call a friend to tell them what you've done.
When a non-enemy threatens you, they're only asking for confirmation that their rage is unacceptable behavior. EVERY time. Don't forget that one reminder never gave anyone enough strength to overcome a recurring behavior. Habits die hard.
When an enemy attacks you on the street, don't hit back; if you can. But when a friend threatens another friend with violence in a public gathering, you tell them they're wrong. Lovingly, peacefully, calmly, etc., but you tell them. You don't wait `till two hours later and mention the incident; we all know it doesn't work nearly so well that way. The longer you wait, the less good it does for the person. Now is best, for everything in life.
It's no wonder some people think Jesus was a wimp. Let me tell you, he wasn't. Non-combative doesn't equate with cowardice. Jesus was, if anything, so strong that he could give people a lot of slack. He didn't take offense at what most people said and did. He understood that people's anger and fear was all inside them, and had nothing to do with him. And in his understanding, he tried to show and teach us that violence doesn't cure violence.
It all boils down to courage. Courage to do what's right. It's right to try and overcome our shortcomings; fear, anger, greed. It's right to tell the truth. At all costs. That's the rub. We often see the cost as physical harm. It takes a lot of courage and trust to act as though God will help us out when we do it His way. I call it Faithing. Acting in trust of God's word.
It's God's message. "Do what's right and I'll bless you. Have faith that the Truth will out. Act like it."
If we could only manage to stay firmly on the side of Truth,
we wouldn't have trouble understanding and recognizing the
solutions to our problems. Especially with others. We'd know
when to turn the other cheek, and when to not.
Did you ever stop to think of all the time, money and energy we spend in our lifetimes trying to please others? Some people have perfected so well the art of pleasing others they don't even realize they are doing it most of the time.
It's amazing to me that this society of ours, which claims to be so individualistic, and goes to great lengths to "do it's own thing," winds up doing just the opposite. Too much of our action goes into dressing right, smelling right, reading the right books, travelling to the right places, and getting the best of all situations and people. Is all this to further our own goals? No. Mostly it's to feed our insecurities. Most of what we do is done for the approval of others. It's as though most people never progressed past the fourth or fifth grade, when we were trying to be like all the other kids. We had to get one of those jackets like the other guys, or that new style outfit all the other girls had; this week. Of course, now that we're "grown up," we have to have the right car, or an outfit with those new floppy shoulder pads. Not much difference between the two age groups is there?
Who do we have to please, anyway?
I've asked that question before, and the quick answer has been, "Me." Well, I'd like to point out that we're probably the last ones that we should try to please. As strange as that seems, I believe it's true. Here's why.
No matter how hard we've tried, we can always find some way to improve the things we do. Another way to say that is, we can always find fault with ourselves. Of course, we can always find fault with others, too. That's a real easy one. Where the two categories separate, is that we can't know if the other person is really doing their best. We always know that we could do better.
How may times have you been put off by a person who just won't stop downgrading their abilities or accomplishments? What a bore to tell a person that you liked something they did, only to have them go into a twenty minute speech on how bad a job they think they did, and how much better it could have been if only they,.....whatever. It's very easy to find fault with ourselves.
Well, what kind of a pickle are we in, then, if we're wrong in thinking that we have ourselves to please first, and we know that trying to win others' approval is improper action?
Am I right in thinking that we should try to do the best we can toward those who love us the most? Even when our parents might not be the kinds of people we would search out for companions, don't we, out of respect and gratitude, give of ourselves for their sakes? Don't we often go out of our way for our parents only because they did so much going out of their way for us? I've heard that to be true even in families where there was little apparent love. I've heard people say, "I only do it because she's my mother." It's interesting to note that that answer almost always suffices.
But even our parents, who went way out of their way for us by just providing food and shelter, may have been critical, judgmental, even mean. We've all heard others say that there was no pleasing their parents. "Why wouldn't they just let me be who I was?" Most friends and acquaintances are not much different. I often hear streams of verbal disapproval between others who call each other friend. Right out in public.
Who do we have to please, then?
Perhaps I'm right in saying that some folks spend their whole lives trying to find that someone and never do. It may be their own fault that no one else can "take them as they are," but that doesn't change the fact of their isolation. But there's help even for those poor souls that have no one. If there's help for them, think what that means for the rest of us.
Again, we should try most to please those who most love us. Those who most love us, will be those who most accept us. Now all we have to do is find the one person who accepts us more than any other, and concentrate on pleasing that person first. Then we can move on to those others.
You might say, "Well, I've done that and gotten hurt. I just start to think that this person is the one that I can really open up to, and up pops the disapproval. Why is that?"
Might I suggest that it all has to do with our innate human capacities? You see, contrary to common misconception, people don't change. We are who we are, all our lives. For a fact, our behaviors change, but not US. We are born, live our lives, and go to the grave being just as good, bad or indifferent as we are.
This concept is readily seen in children. When kids are little, they are extremely selfish. They get the impression that the whole world revolves around them. After a couple years, and many reprimands from family and playmates, kids get the message that there are certain behaviors that cause them stress, and the stress begins to outweigh the want. But every now and then they slip back into the old behaviors and get into trouble again. My observation tells me that most of humanity is born with the same capacities for good and selfishness. In other words, by and large, we're all pretty much the same. Good, selfish, people.
Well then, if we're all walking around with the same capacity for judgement, and criticism, and those tendencies stay with us the rest of our lives, we're never going to be able to get out from under the gun. We'll always be finding things wrong with ourselves. Othersill always be finding things wrong with us. We'll never be able to please others, and more importantly, we'll never be able to please ourselves. As long as we have the capacity to do less than a perfect job of something, we'll be open to criticism.
I've noticed that I have this Standard of perfection in my head that, if I let it go, can find fault with ANYTHING. If I want to be really picky, I can give long dissertations on the Better way to do something. As a matter of fact, I don't even have to WANT to be picky to find fault with things. I do it very easily by just not focusing on my being critical. I hear criticism coming out of my mouth even when I'm not trying to be critical. It just seems to be natural.
I've come to the conclusion that I'll never be perfect. In fact, I'll never be good enough to be free of faultfinding. My own or others. I've got this side of me that's a jerk, and I'm never going to get rid of it. If I deliberately stayed away from the rest of the human race for the rest of my life, I'd still have myself to contend with. I could live like Robinson Crusoe, and I know I'd be putting myself down for not being able to run fast enough to catch an animal for food, or being too much of a motor-moron to build a grass hut.
The point is that because we can never be perfect, we can never please anyone, even ourselves. Especially ourselves.
Seems silly to try getting approval from others or ourselves when it's impossible. I want to say, "To hell with what other people think. To hell with what I think!" But then right away my eyebrows go up and I think, "UH, OH!" If my natural reaction tells me I'm on dangerous ground when I think, "To hell with everyone," I think I'll investigate further. I'm led to the conclusion that I'd better be trying to please someone. But WHO? Who do I have to please, anyway?
Some one who accepts me exactly the way I am. Someone who can, like me, KNOW what's inside me, and accept me anyway. Who sees my imperfect capacities and likes my anyway. In fact, some one who knows me, and is willing to give his life for me. Now that's some hard core love.
Let me digress for a moment.
What do you want in a relationship, perfection or trust? Parents, do you want your kids to act perfect, or trust what you say? How can you be of help to a child, if she or he won't trust what you tell them? Can you remember how invalidated you felt when a child or friend didn't believe you and almost came to grievous physical harm? That was the time you got extremely angry and did lots of threatening. "If you ever do that again, I'll tan the hide off your bottom, young man!!!"
Trusting surrender will garner love more quickly than almost anything. When someone acts in trust of us, we just naturally want to do lots of nice stuff for them. It makes us overlook all kinds of things we could find fault with. It's the one thing that most helps us overcome our natural capacity to criticize. It helps us be more accepting.
But therein lies another dilemma. If having faith in someone is almost the best way to please them, I'm stuck between, one, trying to please someone who, two, can't be pleased and will always be critical. Where do I find someone who I can trust to never be critical of my bad stuff? I think you know by now. God.
God is the only one who is capable of not finding fault with me when I act in trust of Him. He certainly sees and knows all the rotten stuff that's inside me, but because I trust Him, and act like it, He's promised to love and accept me just the way I am. In view of the fact that I know that no one else in the world is capable of accepting me, it looks as if I better set my sights on pleasing God instead of every one around me.
How do I please God? Hebrews 11:6 says it very clearly. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him."
Knowing that faith, as translated in the Bible, is really an action based in trust of God, we have the answer. God has promised in Galations 3:14 that He'll give us His Spirit when we act in trust, or Faithe as I like to say. And further, that implant of God's Spirit is what gives us salvation; which means we don't stay dead. We're saved from death. And along the way, we're made as complete as we were meant to be. We are made to realize that nothing can touch us, and we lose all our fear. Don't you know that it's our fear that makes us try to please other people?
It's the fear of their disapproval that makes us use Dial, wear Calvin Klein designer jeans, and hold out for Poupon dijon mustard. Boy, the folly of trying to please others.
I'm sure that you can find a promise of God that pertains to your life. There's guidance in Proverbs 3:6. There's strength in Deuteronomy 33:25. There's healing in Exodus 15:26. There's protection in Psalm 121. Pick one out, and act as if God will help you overcome the circumstance that stands in your way. Claim the promise, make some move, however small, in the direction of your goal, and let God do the rest. It's called Faithing.
Remember, there's only one person you should be trying to please. God. The wonderful thing is, when you do that, you automatically wind up pleasing all the ones you could never please before.