The cultural byword of our current era is “resistance.” It greets us in social media, on t-shirts, and on bumper stickers. It is uttered by pundits, social activists, and preachers. “Resist! Persist!” has become the rallying cry for a new movement which possesses a passion once reserved for the “We Shall Overcome!” days of the 1960s.
Mystics, contemplatives, and people of prayer from every faith tradition and non-tradition may struggle in times like these to maintain a sense of peace and equilibrium. Anger easily becomes the fuel for action. Tensions rise and passions flare as our societal polarities move beyond the extreme fringes, creating the kind of civil unrest not seen since the 1860s and the 1960s. But as noted by Martin Luther King, hate-filled resistance will eat you alive. It turns you into the very people you are trying to resist, quickly depleting its own energy, unlike the power of love and non-violent forms of resistance which bring a momentum that is at times unstoppable.
My own tradition teaches me, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” To be honest, those words bring me little comfort at the moment. My impulse swings widely like a pendulum from screaming and jumping up and down to crawling under the covers and waiting for the storm to pass. It depends upon my energy level and the mood of any given day, and I have concluded that I cannot live successfully at the effect of either of those things. Something’s got to give or I will soon be melting down.
Someone very wise in my life said to me the other day that the strongest form of resistance is in refusing to engage the evil in the first place. I have thought about that a great deal, especially as it relates to the idea of turning the other cheek. Turning the other cheek isn’t really about rolling over and playing dead. I think it is about deflating the power of evil by not rising to meet its energy. It’s about letting a tweet go by. It’s about deleting an inflammatory post that only cements the polarizations that are killing us. It’s about plugging ourselves into Source and staying there long enough to arrange our priorities in such a way that we aren’t wasting precious time, words, and power being hateful.
Entirely new generations of people who may be less aware of Gandhi, Dr. King, Mother Theresa, and people like them, will need for us to demonstrate the powerful center that these giants have emulated. We must emulate the emulators. We must “be the change we wish to see in the world.” We must take the bullies on the playground or the ones in cyberspace or other places of power, and consider that their ideas, their bluster, their half-truths, and even their lies, are irrelevant to our vision of the the world.
A tweet is equally empowered by its audience, regardless of the viewpoints of that audience. Perhaps the best response is to choke their fuel by giving it as little attention as possible. Having made that decision, then, we can move toward the persistence of Spirit (insert your preferred term here). Resist. Persist. Together we can shift the momentum. And so it is. And so it shall be.
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