Stop me if you’ve heard of this country song or sang along to it whenever you heard it on the radio: “I pray your brakes go out running down a hill, I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to…” Whenever you pray for those who’ve hurt you, do your prayers sound like that?
This is not what Jesus meant when he said pray for your enemies. Turning the other cheek does not mean becoming a doormat, either. Back in biblical times, whenever someone struck a person on the cheek, the aggressor would strike with the back of his right hand as a way of marking the recipient of the violence as his social inferior. Turning the other cheek would force the person to hit them again, but using the palm of his right hand since nobody used their left hand for any form of social interaction at the time. Being slapped with the palm of someone’s hand meant being acknowledged as that person’s equal, even in conflict. In other words, turning the other cheek means standing your ground in a nonviolent manner.
One way that we can turn the other cheek towards our aggressors is to let go of the anger inflicted upon us and retaliating with selfless love. Sometimes, it comes in the form of just snarking at them in a very polite way. Other times it could mean killing them with kindness. But if the violence is especially strong, the best thing we can do is just treat the aggressor with compassion and mercy.
Having selfless love for those who’ve hurt you means wanting them to be happy. And I mean legitimately wanting happiness for them and not saying it sarcastically or bitterly. This selfless love has to come from the heart. Do they deserve this selfless love? No! None of us deserve to have selfless, unconditional love in our lives. It’s not something we’re entitled to. Nor will it be something that happens overnight. It all starts with letting go of our anger and fear.
After all, as Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Listen to Francesca Battistelli’s “If We’re Honest” and pay attention to the lyrics. One thing I love about this song is that it reminds us that we are all in need of God’s mercy. The good news is that His mercy is infinite.
Saint Jerome, pray for us.
What exactly are you afraid of? Are you afraid of getting hurt again? Are you afraid that the person who hurt you will never change and continue to inflict pain to others? Are you afraid of being a victim of circumstances?
What are some ways to show selfless love and still stand your ground? Did you react to past issues with violence or flight or taking a third option?
Action: Offer all of your fears up to Jesus. Take a deep breath and pray as you breathe, sisters. Let the fear and anger out. Let God’s love come in. After all, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”