The Loving Art of Spiritual One-Upmanship

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;”

Matthew 5:38-39

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The desire for revenge is as old as humanity. When somebody hurts us the first reaction is to want to hurt them back. The problem is that brute retaliation doesn’t ultimately solve the problem. Violence begets more violence. And it tends to escalate. We are trapped – at minimum in our own minds, in our own upset and fear. OK, yes, when somebody hurts us, we need to express the pain and then feel comfort and relief. We deserve healing. For that we take time with a trusted wise friend who can really hear and love us. Then we need to find a productive way to navigate our connection with the person who struck out at us. Yes, you heard that right – we have a connection with people who hurt us. It is a painful connection to be sure. It can feel like we are chained to them. We want to let go, but what is the way through?

Jesus has a solution. He advises us to “turn the other cheek” in consciousness. He isn’t advocating offering ourselves up for more abuse. He is teaching us the ultimate method of self-protection. Jesus is showing us how to get out of “even exchange” consciousness. He recommends spiritual one-upmanship—going to a spiritually more expansive understanding. Jesus advocates asserting our self-respect and dignity. When we “turn the other cheek,” we are realizing that we, not the other person, have the power. We are the one who has the choice. We are not subjugated. When we “turn the other cheek” in consciousness we discover that wise practical actions come to mind. We will know what to do and we will have the courage and energy to do it. We will set ourselves free. We will not hate, we will not be caught in a sad life-draining cycle of violence. We will be free to love ourselves, love our fellows, and dance with joy. These are the precious gifts that come from practicing the loving art of spiritual one-upmanship. You deserve all of them.

In the Love and Light of the Christ,

Rev. Anna


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