the sixth grade was a very interesting year for me. actually, it wasn't that great of a year for me at all. i was still fat and my voice had not really changed much and i was just a funny looking kid. i really wanted to be popular - but really i just wanted people to like me. which is interesting because other than my sixth and some of my seventh grade years, that has never been a problem for me.
but that first year of middle school was. and for some reason, this one kid named ryan - who certainly was not superior in terms of looks, abilities, or social class - thought i would be his target of abuse. really, i was not hurt. mainly because i realized the equal status between us. i knew that i was not inferior - in any way. to be honest, i thought he was a weasel.
but it got annoying. and it dug in. and slowly it began affecting me. not in a way that caused me to become depressed - but in a way that i began to subconsciously question my confidence. this went on for an entire year. until the last week of school. ryan would push me and make some stupid comment like, "you're slow fatso..." or something ridiculous. and something inside me went off. after he pushed me, i grabbed his arm, put him in a head lock, and kneed him in the face.
now for years, i have felt good about that. i have always had the ability to maintain my calm (except in football games) but was proud that i showed ryan i was not inferior. but recently i just got "checked" on my attitude about this. read what jesus says:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow." (Matthew 5:38-42 NLT)this is one of those verses i have always overlooked and explained away. i would read this verse, agree with it, and then say, "well, its good not to have revenge, but you can't just let someone walk all over you." this was precisely the attitude i had with ryan, and specifically the reason why i finally decided to oppose him. and it was in that decision to act i realize that i simply moved to the weakness of being a pushover to the weakness of being an oppressor like my enemy.
in that instant, i became - regardless of whether or not he deserved it - just like him.
if someone ridicules you or slaps you across the cheek, they are belittling you. they are in a position where they feel you are inferior to them. and you have some options. you could retaliate. but by doing this you become an oppressor just like them. or you could walk away in cowardice; afraid and embarrassed with little dignity left.
or you could go with option three and turn so they can strike you with their fist on your other cheek. but why would you ever do that? that is so ridiculous.
i've always thought that. but it actually takes strength to do such a thing and it also does something even more important: it exposes the true violent nature of your oppressor. you will not be frail or inferior in that position, but rather will display strength and stability and your resistance to violent retaliation will allow you to rise above the weakness of your enemy.
i am reading an excellent book by Brian McLaren called, "The Secret Message Of Jesus." here is an excerpt:
"Similarly, if someone takes you to court - as rich landowners would often do to poor peasants who had gotten in debt - and they want your outer garment, Jesus says to strip down naked and give them your underwear as well! Your 'generosity' leaves you defenseless and exposed - but in a sense, your exposure exposes the naked greed and cruelty of your oppressors. . . Or if someone forces you to carry his pack a mile - which a Roman soldier could do to any Jew - by willingly taking the pack a second mile, you show yourself a generous human being, strong, self-controlled, dignified, not dominated. The first mile may be forced, but the second mile, you walk free - transcending your oppression. The way to transcend a corrupt system is through generosity - giving, not hold back." (page 126)for so long i have felt justifiably vindicated from that situation with ryan, but after much reflection and consideration i have come realize how weak and vulnerable i actually was.
how could i have reacted better? what would i have done?
i am not exactly sure what i would have done differently. perhaps i would have done the exact same thing. i am not sure i would have gathered up enough courage to do what jesus says. but if i could have done that, i would. and i know ryan would be exposed for what he really was.