In the top five of ‘things that have stuck with me over the years’ is that old saw we all learn in Drivers Ed. I was thinking about it because I heard on the news that they no longer will be offering Drivers Ed (which seems so short sighted I can’t even stand it.)
I was thinking also thinking about it in the context of ‘turning the other cheek’. What has occurred to me is how thoroughly unsatisfying it is. It’s one of the few things in my religious life that has no inner reward. The longer I live, the more necessary I find the idea. But like the skid thing? Totally unsubstantiated by feelings.
As the world becomes more ‘polarized’ in so many ways; rich and poor, left and right, on and on and on… It seems to me that the very notion of Christianity: forgiveness, compassion and above all, the ability to take it on the chin once in a while for a greater good are going out the window.
The crusade for justice; to enact vengeance become ever more powerful as what seems ‘fair’ and ‘right’ go out the window. As my outrage at all the bad things in the world grows, the easier it is to adopt any number of Machiavellian bargains to achieve various ends. After all, the other side is doing it, right?
Winning is like steering against the skid. It’s so hard to take Christ’s long view, when the short term pain is so real.
The problem with learning to steer in the direction of the skid is that (hopefully) one gets very few chances to practice and learn to overcome that primal response. But almost every day, I do have a chance to practice turning the other cheek. Enough bad stuff happens to you and me that there’s no reason to not be pretty much an expert at not reacting viscerally to all the crap life dishes out.
And yet, though it may get easier as I practice, it certainly has not given me any more sense of accomplishment. Certainly not the sense of achievement I’ve had when really steering in the direction of a skid.
Perhaps that lack of ‘gratification’ is an essential part of the challenge of ‘turning the other cheek.’ I mean, if it felt ‘good’ to do it, maybe that would be too easy from God’s point of view. Maybe it has to be unrewarding and a real pain in the ass that never feels good. Whatever the reason? It never stops feeling counter-intuitive. My heart does not want it. And yet, my head tells me just the opposite.
And the kicker? I know there are so many, many people who call themselves Christian or Jew or Muslim or whatever who have just the opposite balance between head and heart.