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Can I Teach My Children To Turn The Other Cheek?

Jesus tells us to not only resist retaliation but to turn the other cheek.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

While I attempt to humble myself to this calling by listening closer, measuring my words, and remembering that with with God’s help, I am strong enough to let go of my need to be right, I struggling with this concept when it comes to my children.

It’s fine and dandy for me to decide to take a name-calling, to quietly pray for someone, to give until I am uncomfortable, or to seek council to understand a person better rather than lash back, but to ask my children to do the same? When my children are hurt, I feel an anger and fierceness I never knew was inside me. I want them to stand up for themselves. To tell people: No, it’s not okay. I want them to fight back or find an adult to fight for them. I want them to insist on love and fairness.

My children are young so I don’t know how developmentally capable they are of putting themselves in another person’s shoes at this point, but once they are, will I want them to do it in all those scenarios? I will be proud, but I will also worry that they are sacrificing themselves too much and too often.

I believe humility is the key to peace and serenity in this world, but it is also terrifying. People are cruel. My children will still be learning even as teenagers, and I won’t be there to point out when to walk away. What if people take advantage of them? Our culture seems caught up in fear and insecurity and judgement and winning and money and power. I am not immune either. I want to seem important, too. I get angry, indignant, and fearful I won’t get “what I deserve.” The lessons of humility are difficult to shallow even for me with so many people who couldn’t care less about turning the other cheek.

On a more metaphoric level, while I can set an example of grace and humility when I’m not caught up in my importance, can force it upon my children? I do not believe Jesus asks us to make other people turn their cheeks as well. That seems counterintuitive to the entire notion. Is it humbling to prod other into being humble even if they are my children?

While I would love to sum up this article with the amazing answers I have found, I have none. All I know is what I have said goes around and around in my head: I attempt to humble myself daily, but it is difficult and frightening so I don’t always want it for my children. But I do want it for my children because it is the way of joy, serenity and a path to God. However, in the end, I don’t even know that I can give humility to anyone anyway.

I will continue to be the best example I can be, pray and be open to suggestions.

About the writer: Alex Iwashyna went from an undergraduate degree in political philosophy to a medical doctor to a stay-at-home mom, writer and Christian by 30. Four years later, she spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog, except when it’s serious, about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.

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