This is a quote from Benjamin Franklin, taken from Poor Richard’s Almanac. In my opinion, this is more than just a quote…it is a principle we should live by. If we could take this simple piece of advice and live by it daily, wouldn’t the world be a better place? I know that sounds cheesy, but truly think about it. What if you went through each day doing your best not to hurt anyone in any way? And when they throw anger your way, you turn the other cheek. If we all lived by this quote, the world would truly be a different place…a better place. So, why don’t we???
Our Base Instinct
Our base instinct and automatic response to anyone attacking us, whether it be in word or in act, is to attack back. Of course it is common sense to defend ourselves, but we often go further than that. If someone attacks our character, we attack their character. If someone “does us wrong”, our instinct is to “do them wrong”…to get them back for what they have done to us. I believe this is a natural instinct that is further supported by society. Let’s talk about that.
Society Makes It Worse
Society tells us that we shouldn’t take crap from anyone. Think of a time where you saw someone getting verbally attacked. If they didn’t defend themselves or respond back, did you hear someone else say, “Are you just going to take that?” As a society, we expect someone to attack back if they are being attacked. And if they don’t, we kinda encourage them to. We say things like, “Don’t let them walk all over you” or “You don’t have to take that.” And guess what that feeds…
That’s right!!! People telling us we have to stand up for ourselves is a statement right to our egos. And then our egos take over. Our ego wants to fight back. We will even go out of our way to “get even.” Once we do get even, our ego feels better. It feels like the threat has been handled and we are a stronger person. And then our ego stands guard for the next time. And then when the next time occurs, we don’t need society to tell us to fight back because our ego is primed to respond. The ego tells us that we have to be strong. But are we really being strong?
Who Is Stronger?
The other day I was talking to my youngest son and the topic of arguments came up. I asked him, “Tell me…who do you think is stronger? The person who fights back in an argument, or the person who avoids it and walks away?” I was impressed when he said the person who walks away. I guess he has been paying attention, which is great, but this is easier said than done. I have witnessed him defend himself, angrily, many times when his brothers tease him. This is pretty much what most do. That’s because it takes a much stronger person to take the offense and not give it back. It takes a much stronger person to turn the other cheek, than to fight and argue back.
It is true that we need to defend ourselves and keep ourselves safe, but not when the offense we experience is just words. Even if someone hurts our feelings or egos with something they passively do, it doesn’t mean we have to step up and attack them. Most times people will do things that they don’t even realize hurts our feelings, or worse yet, something we take the wrong way. Feeling hurt, we naturally attack back. But Benjamin Franklin is saying, “It is better to take many injuries, than to give one.” Turn the other cheek. Fight that ego and strong impulse that tells us we have to attack back. When we try to intentionally hurt anyone, either with our words or actions, we are truly hurting ourselves. Our characters are weakened and diminished. We can become someone we don’t want to be. And when our characters change for the worse, other problems shortly follow.
Though it is tough to turn the other cheek, it is the best approach. It can be tough to do that, especially if we are attacked in a public way. Our ego wants to fight back as we are defending our reputation and want to be strong. But the strong person can let it go and walk away. You have a choice. Join into the negativity, or walk away. Walking away from negativity will always build up your character. And a person with a strong character will live a happier life with better, stronger relationships.