We’ve all heard the phrase “turn the other cheek.” Most of us do not want to let someone who has done us wrong off the hook. Turning the other cheek feels like opening the door to being hurt or abused in the future.
It gets even more challenging for the few people who want to practice these words when someone has already hurt you and shows no genuine remorse.
I wonder if his audience understood how difficult this challenge was when Jesus called them to turn the other cheek in his famous Sermon on the Mount. He literally challenged his audience to offer the left cheek for abuse after someone slaps you on the right cheek.
My recent Unbeatable interview with Ron Breland sounded like a modern example of what it looks like to put this ancient principle into practice. Warning: there’s nothing easy about this challenge. Most people with an intense desire for self-protection will view this statement as utter nonsense. I recognize this concept is so foreign that some of you will stop reading here.
With the rest of this article, I want to explore the courage it takes to turn the other cheek without letting the abuse turn into a severe condition like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For those of you with the courage to confront your trauma rather than run from it, read on…
Finding the courage to confront abuse
Ron grew up in an incredibly abusive family. Dropped from a roof as an infant, chased from the mafia as a toddler, and abused by his father as a teenager, Ron’s life was nothing but pain and trauma. This kind of tragic childhood would quickly turn anyone into a savage.
Rather than run away from it, Ron leaned into his pain. In a strange way, all of the childhood difficulties that Ron went through prepared him for the hardships of serving in the US military. He could handle some of the horrors of war because he confronted his past rather than run from it. He was able to get back in the saddle after the trauma of combat because of the difficulties he learned to overcome as a child.
A first responder responds to trauma
Your greatest strength always comes from the inside. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can throw up at the gym; it takes far more strength to confront abuse and move on from it than the people who run from their past. It takes a strong heart to turn the left cheek when the right cheek still stings from the past.
Ron had to learn how to overcome his trauma to be successful in the military and combat. Ron’s faith gave him the strength to do what others run from. Eventually, as a military firefighter, Ron found the strength to face the kind of personal trauma that most people can’t. Both emotionally and physically, Ron showed friends how to run into the types of places and spaces that most others were running out of.
Wounds that are worse than war
What happens inside is far more painful and lasts far longer than outside. The human reaction to physical pain is to pull away immediately. This is a natural and healthy survival mechanism. However, running from emotional or relational pain is not always easy… nor is it productive. This is the point when someone doesn’t return (all the way) home from war.
Ron learned that psychological trauma is always far more difficult to confront than physical pain. Emotional scars always take longer to heal than physical scars. There are perfectly normal people at work with you who have deep, festering wounds in their hearts. These people appear normal until they get in a situation where they are about to be slapped on the left cheek. You can tell from their reaction that they’ve never worked through the pain of being hit on the right cheek in the past.
The only path out of the pain
Just like a healthy body must heal and restore itself after physical trauma, so must the heart heal itself after emotional trauma. The only way to heal is to go through difficult memories and relationships.
There’s only one path through heart pain. Don’t let society deceive you; there’s no path around the pain or shortcut. You must deal with the source of your pain if you’re going to get healthy on the other side of it. And in many cases, that requires confronting the person or circumstance that caused the pain in the first place.
Fight your feelings, not the person
It’s easy to see why pain can turn us into a savage. When experiencing a painful circumstance, the natural human reaction is to build up a protective wall so that you don’t have to go through that situation again.
This is a natural reaction but not a helpful reaction.
I have great respect for people like Ron who haven’t become debilitated by their past and also haven’t let it turn them into a savage . He is an excellent example of learning from painful experiences without becoming closed off from the rest of the world.
I hope this article has challenged you to get healthy after the hurt of your past. If you’re willing to live up to Jesus’s challenge to turn the other cheek, it won’t be easy, but it might be the best thing that happens to you this year. If you’re struggling to move on from the trauma that you’ve experienced in the past, here is an article I wrote with three essential steps to beat trauma without letting it beat you.