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Turning the Other Cheek
Publication date: 2003-11-25

With the present increase in global violence, some people are calling towards "non-violence" quoting the biblical passage about "turning the other cheek".

Often this passage is interpreted as: "If I hit you, you should turn me the other cheek, but if you hit me, I have right to defend myself".

We look at the real meaning of "turning the other cheek", and how this method can be used with positive results, and where it fails.

The passage about turning the other cheek appears in The New Testament (Matthew 5:39, and Luke 6:29), as follows:

"If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also".
But a similar passage appears in the Old Testament (Lamentations 3:30):
"Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace".

This last passage is part of laments over the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah (Yehuda), Jerusalem, and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The first passage originated in Palestine in the early decades of the 1st Century AD, when Palestine was ruled by the Roman puppet Herod.

Thus, both the passages relate to circumstances when people were downtrodden and oppressed to such a degree when any resistance seemed futile, and the only option was to face any aggression on the part of the oppressor by calmly accepting the blows, so as not to provoke more violence.

But the method of "turning the other cheek", both literally and figuratively, has been successfully used in more recent times, as illustrated by the following examples.

Case 1:

Analysis (Case 1):

Case 2:

Analysis (Case 2):

Case 3:

Analysis (Case 3):

Case 4:

Analysis (Case 4):


Some people still respond to aggression with aggression and do not understand the power of the technique of "turning the other cheek".


But, if the TTOC (Turning The Other Cheek) technique is so powerful, why not use it in every case?

Because it does not work in every case.

Would have the USA been an independent country, rather than a British colony, if the Americans had been meek and obedient to the British, rather than rising up against them in a violent War of American Independence?

Would have the European colonizers left their Asian and African colonies, had it not been for a combination of violent and non-violent resistance?

In Case 1 (above) the prisoner could stop the officer slapping prisoners on the face using TTOC, but TTOC would not have liberated the countries occupied by the Germans in World War II. The only way to do that was military force.

In Case 2 (above) the burglar agreed to work for the businessman, because the alternative was to undergo violent punishment, and the businessman was a strong man backed by a group of servants standing behind him, which helped the burglar to accept the businessman's offer.

There is no single magic cure-all, each case needs to be considered on its merits. Often violence needs to be resisted with violence, but sometimes "turning the other cheek" works, while use of violence without sense creates just more violence.


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