One concept of faith that I've never been able to fully embrace though is the turning of the other cheek. I've heard minister after minister exhort their congregations to turn the other cheek, because allegedly that's what Jesus would do if offended.
But I'm not buying it. I've written before that we only have two cheeks...above the waist, and once I've turned that pair I'll no longer be conciliatory over a particular issue. I can't. Beyond my two above waist cheeks, I have the other pair, the pair that helps hold up my pants. And if I turn that pair, I'm likely to get kicked in 'em.
I'm rambling on about all this, because I am engaging in a real-time experiment of the appropriate way to react to that second cheek being slapped.
When I walked out to my car yesterday after work, I noticed a red Firebird/Trans Am parked next to my passenger side. It hadn't been there when I got to work Tuesday morning. As I got closer to open the front passenger door and insert my bag, I noticed an inch-long scratch on the door and red paint.
I stepped back and took a wider look. The Firebird was parked over the yellow line, partially in my space. I didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what had happened.
If this had been the first time I'd gotten a scratch, or the first time I'd gotten a scratch at work, or the first time I'd gotten a scratch from this particular car I might have had a different reaction.
But, believe it or not, two months ago when I was driving a rental car while mine was in the shop, I arrived at work, and parked next to this exact same car. When I left the office at the end of the day, I noticed the Firebird's driver about 30 yards ahead of me. By the time I reached my car, he was in his and approaching the exit to the parking lot. When I made it to my rental there was a huge ding in the driver's door. And there was red paint in that huge ding. I tried to wave down Firebird guy, but he was out of the lot and on his way and either didn't see me or didn't care to stop.
What are the odds? So I sort of know who the guy is. I don't know his name yet. But I see him all the time driving up to the office with the T-tops off, bumping Night at the Roxbury music and bobbing his head in kind.
I've never spoken to him - not so much as eye contact and a head nod, or a simple "hello."
But now I'm going to talk to him.
I alerted the security boss, 'cause I want there to be a record in case I'm unlucky enough to find the only parking space left some day in the future is next to Firebird guy. But I told the security boss I don't want any formal reports that I can take to an insurance agent. I'm not looking for money. I don't want anything tangible from this guy. I good bit of Carnauba wax and some elbow grease, and I'll be able to buff out this latest scratch. I just want to talk to the guy.
So I've been mulling this morning over what I want to say when I meet the door dinger.
There are two incarnations of old James. There is the incarnation that would have turned the other cheek and dismissed it as no big deal. There is the incarnation that would have raged over the incident and walked around with a vein bulging out the side of his neck. That second incarnation may have also planted a penalty shot-worthy kick on Firebird guy's car.
Relatively new James is going to compromise though. I'm not turning anymore cheeks. 'Nuff of that. And I'm not boiling over. I'm getting old. I have to watch my blood pressure.
So I think when I get the guy's ID and find out what department he works in later this afternoon, I'll just introduce myself, explain to him that he's hit my car twice with his car door in recent months, that there is overwhelming evidence against him, so he shouldn't even try to deny it, and that he needs to be a little more careful when he opens his car doors.
And I'll even say it without swearing...I think. I may ask him what the "hell" is wrong with him, but I'll only take that tone if he cops attitude with me.
So that's my social/psych/faith/cheek-turning experiment - shaming the perpetrator. I'll report back later on how it went.