Earlier this week, a man I’ve known and respected for years slapped me in the face. Hard. Well, he didn’t slap me in the face, he slapped a friend of mine in the face. He didn’t slap her literally, it was a figurative slap and it stung her and it stung me, too.
One very human response to belittlement is to condemn the aggressor, to wish him ill and to begin plotting revenge. But Christ calls us in a different direction: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”
And so I offered no resistance. I interrupted his cycle of aggression. I emotionally detached myself from this man and reflected that he too, is a child of God. Maybe, just maybe, without my responding in kind, this man might begin to reflect on his own behavior and on why he needed to berate someone else. What emptiness in his own soul was he trying to fill with anger? I asked myself: how can I begin to see him as God does?
Turning the other cheek is not easy, nor does it feel natural to me. The night after the awful slap in the face, I was able to let go of my anger, but I could not take the next step: to pray for my enemy. St. Thomas reminds us: “To pray for another is an act of charity… Wherefore we are bound to pray for our enemies in the same manner as we are bound to love them… We must love in them their nature, not their sin.”
I tried but I simply could not pray for him. That evening, as I drifted off to sleep, I begged God to find someone, anyone, to pray for this man. That was the best I could offer. I’ve discovered God answered my prayers within hours: The friend slapped most directly told me she devoted her morning prayer time to this man.
So while this slap smarted, it taught me too. It showed me some steps in front of me on my journey.