Turn the Other Cheek
Over the winter holiday break, my wife, son, and I binge-watched the second season of Stranger Things. Not surprisingly, strange things happen throughout the 9 episodes. The persistent theme throughout the series is how we hurt ourselves when we hurt others. There were beautiful examples of this between friends, parent and teen, and even government and monster.
The phenomenon of hurting ourselves when we lash out against others is too common. It speaks to the wisdom of being nice to others, always. In Stranger Things, we clearly see people’s justification for being mean, for hurting other people, and whether justified or not, the pain inflicted always ends up backfiring—making life worse for all concerned.
I see this phenomenon all over the place—in the workplace, in my personal life, and even in the world around us. Take the angry, aggressive patient who doesn’t help himself when lashing out to the doctor or other staff. I wouldn’t be helping myself either if I let my emotions get the best of me and respond in anger.
Or, for example, what would happen if I were to react angrily to something my wife says or does? (Note: Stranger Things makes the great point that wives are always right, but we can generalize that to say other people are always right, especially if we are trying to make things better for ourselves.)
And lastly, this rings true when we dissect international conflict. Who among us fully realized how much pain we had inflicted before we were on the receiving end on 9/11?1-7
Though Jewish, I admire the Christian wisdom of “turn the other cheek.” It is a hard path to follow, whether in clinic or in life, but it increasingly seems to be more logical and productive than our natural tendency toward anger and retribution.
Steven R. Feldman, MD, PhD
Chief Medical Editor
Dr Feldman is with the Center for Dermatology Research and the Department of Dermatology, Pathology, and Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC.
1. Madeleine Albright says 500,000 dead Iraqi Children was “worth it” wins Medal of Freedom. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omnskeu-puE. Published May 12, 2012. Accessed July 23, 2018.
2. Zaidi S, Fawzi MC. Health of Baghdad’s children. Lancet. 1995;346(8988):1485.
3. Crossette B. Iraq sanctions kill children, U.N. reports. New York Times. December 1, 1995. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/01/world/iraq-sanctions-kill-children-un-reports.html. Accessed July 23, 2018.
4. Zaidi S. Child mortality in Iraq. Lancet. 1997;350(9084):1105.
5. Richman S. Iraqi sanctions: were they worth it? Global Policy Forum website. Published January 2004. https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/170-sanctions/41952.html. Accessed July 23, 2018.
6. Dyson T, Cetorelli V. Changing views on child mortality and economic sanctions in Iraq: a history of lies, damned lies and statistics. BMJ Glob Health. 2017;2(2):e000311. doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000311
7. Bin Laden: America ‘filled with fear’. cnn.com website. Published October 7, 2001. http://www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/10/07/ret.binladen.transcript/index.html. Accessed July 23, 2018.