What the “Other Cheek” Approach Is Really About

Nietzsche, Jesus, the Buddha, and Lao Tzu on how to build personal power and confidence

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The 4 Versions of the Principle


My choice for the principle's name comes from the New Testament of the Bible, in the book of Matthew 5: 38–42 (as well as the book of Luke, as they shared source material). It’s something that Jesus supposedly said to his group of followers as a metaphor for moving past the slights that happen to you.


Here’s the same advice in a quite different voice — that of famous philosopher and atheist Friedrich Nietzsche. In his Genealogy of Morals, he links this turning of the cheek to power and confidence:

The Buddha

As a third example, the first chapter of the Dhammapada — the sayings of the Buddha:

Lao Tzu

And finally, we have the Tao Te Ching, which (on one translation) discusses what a person looks like when they’ve taken the “other cheek” approach to heart:

What This Advice Isn’t Saying

But we need to be clear here, so that there is no misunderstanding. There are 2 things that these pieces of advice aren’t saying.

Turning the Other Cheek is About Power

All 4 of these sources are pointing out something about power. Namely, there is a power within you that no one can take away from you unless you hand it over. That power is the power to keep moving. It’s the power to be confidently yourself no matter what has been done to you. It’s the power to define yourself not by what you need to be given or what needs to be given back to you, but by what you yourself are doing for your own personal growth.

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Author of “The Wabi-Sabi Way” and “Be, Think, Do”. Subscribe to my newsletter “Woolgathering”: https://goo.gl/UhzUYL.

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