Tag Archives: Matthew 5:39

Learning To Turn The Other Cheek

Friday morning at work, I had one of those phone calls that you get once in a while, the abusive customer.  It was a call from one of our “travelling community”, on a mobile and to top it off a phone line that was just terrible, the call kept going quiet and as you can guess, it did so at the key moments of the conversation, which meant that firstly I was struggling to understand his thick accent and secondly to hear on the bad phone line.

The only thing I could get was that he was after a 20 litre tub of something, I kept saying I was struggling to hear, but said we don’t stock anything in 20 litres, only 5 litres, I couldn’t make out the name of the product or what it was, I kept saying I was struggling to understand.  I heard him ask if I had anything as alternative, but still didn’t understand exactly what he wanted, so I asked what the product actually did, so I could work out what we had to offer him, that’s when it happened.

His response was blunt and to the point, he raised his voice and this time I could make out exactly what he was saying……

“Your a f#@king idiot, your f#@king stupid….”

He kept repeating this until he hung up a few moments later.

My response was simple, I just said “okay, fair enough, thank you!”.

I wasn’t sure what else to say, but be polite and gracious, as I had been all the way through a difficult conversation.  My Boss heard the end of the conversation and asked what that was about, I told him what had happened and been said, to which he responded he would have hung up on him before that.

It bugged me a bit after that, not some much what he said, but it actually brought back memories of a period of my life that actually became quite difficult to deal with, a period where I felt I had to just keep quiet, turn the other cheek and carry on, so I felt the best way to deal with it would be to write about it, it usually helps.

This situation happened at my karate club for a number of years.  As I have written before I and a colleague took over the club in 1989, he was 17 and I was just 15, but by 1995 I was doing the majority of the teaching, especially the adult classes during the week, I was still only 20, still very young for an instructor even then.

We had many adults at the time, senior to me in years, but not in grade, not at the start anyway.  Within the class we had an elder couple, both in their sixties and both black belts.  They travelled to many course around the country, more than I could afford to get to and they were friendly with all the top brass in the association, where I doubt that they even knew my name, except for those on the local committees.

As a couple they were nice and generous people, yet eventually they became unbearable to have in the class and to top it off they never missed a midweek class.  As I was teaching they would undermine my instruction, by behind my back showing something different.  Before and after classes they would comment on other students and conflict with advice I had given, this included when partnering with students, they would lecture them on everything they would “doing wrong”, in their opinion anyway.  My students knew enough to largely ignore them and just concentrate on what I was teaching them, they like me just put up with it.  Students came and went, but I put up with it for about four years before I couldn’t do it anymore.

One evening I wasn’t feeling great, so I asked one of my seniors to take the class for me.  He was the same grade as the couple, but not been training as long as them, obviously in karate there is a hierarchy not necessarily in grade, but perceived time training.  But as nice as this couple could be, they couldn’t instruct, they had tried before, we had given them opportunity, but the feedback was my students didn’t want to train under them.  So I left the class in the hands of this senior, who had been teaching with me some time.  Later that evening I got a report of what had gone off in the class, a serious lack of respect for the instructor, they had criticised him openly in the class and neglected to follow protocol in a defiant lack of respect.

I was fuming and couldn’t take it anymore, I had always shied away from confronting them, firstly due to their age, I was taught to respect my elders, I chose to let it go and keep it in rather than confront it, I didn’t want it to look like I was the one being disrespectful, my age, just in my early twenties and they in their sixties, with their contacts it could be more trouble than it was worth, especially when running the club wasn’t about earning a living, we weren’t paid for teaching, it was a voluntary thing, so I just put up with it, until this night.

I decide a formal letter would be the best way, I drafted a letter, showed it to my other instructors and our parents who helped with the admin of the club, we finalised the letter and sent it, it may have been a bit of a cowards way of doing it, but a formal letter seemed to be the quietest method of dealing with it without a messy confrontation.  They got the letter and asked for a clear the air meeting.

We had the meeting one Sunday afternoon, I stayed quiet, just listening to what was being said by my other instructors, our parents and this couple, both sides trying to explain their side of things, then one of the couple said that I had been quiet and not said anything, they would like to hear what I have to say, okay, now they had asked for it, I let rip, bluntly, yet with respect and without being overly aggressive, but they were going to hear how I felt.  I let them know in no uncertain terms how they had been acting, how they would never dream of acting like this in one of the associations senior instructor’s classes, then why act like this in mine.

The air was cleared, they were apologetic and we everything was alright for a while.  I say a while, maybe a year or so, then it all started to creep in again, not as bad, they were a little more discrete about it, but it went on for another five years or so.  In that time we changed associations, with that went a big change in the way we did things, I had to adapt quickly and teach in a new way, which they couldn’t adapt to, so eventually they left the club quietly.

Over a period of about ten years I put up with it, after the meeting it was okay for a while, but in all honesty there were still moments even then, but as always I chose, rightly or wrongly, to turn a blind eye to it.  My students had enough respect to know I was the one they should listen to and to take this other advice with a pinch of salt.

But in that period I used to dread picking up my bag and setting off for class, as I feared what was going to happen, I feared another incident and that I may be forced to confront them.  I chose to take it in and keep it in, largely letting it eat away at me inside, I loved teaching, yet hated it at the same time, just because I felt as a young instructor, I was duty bound to show respect to these people, rather than confront it and look like I was showing them disrespect, I was between a rock and a hard place.  There were a few times that I was ready to quit, but there was always something that would happen, that would change things.

One of these times was when I got a message that a third dan black belt, the same as I was, was coming to train one night, okay, not too much of a problem there, until I was told he trained with the Chief Instructor of our Association in London and also his assistant at the time, who is now my Chief Instructor.  He lived in village about twenty miles away, but worked in London, he came, trained with us, we seemed to get on, he was a great bloke, he was with us for a few months and then disappeared.  This was around the time I was having one of these crisis moments with the situation with this couple, I was ready to give up.

Then out of the blue, one night this guy from London turned up again, he was very apologetic, he explained he had been very ill with a kidney disease for a few months and unable to train.  He went on to say that he had tried training at a lot of clubs closer to where he lived, but chose to come back and train with me, because even though it was a bit of extra travel from his home, that didn’t matter because he loved training with me.  So here was this guy who trained with the best in the country, one of the world’s most respected Japanese instructors, yet he wanted to train with me too, it gave me a massive boost, I was doing something right and it wasn’t time to give up just yet!

This was a period of my life that was hard, as at the time karate was a big part of my life, I was teaching on average five nights a week, sometimes every night of the week, it was hard to get away from this issue, yet so hard for me to tackle head on.

When I think now of these two incidents, the one at work and the one with this elderly couple, I’m prompted to think of two verses….


But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39)


Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

So, did I manage to keep to true to these verses, certainly I believe I did on Friday, I was as gracious as I could be.  But with the older couple, I wasn’t a believer then, but did I turn the cheek once too often, or did I handle it they way I should have.

I guess it’s in the past now, but there is still a lesson there.

To make a mountain of your life
Is just a choice
But I never learned enough
To listen to the voice that told me
Always love, Hate will get you every time
Always love, Don’t wait til the finish line

Slow demands come ’round
Squeeze the air and keep the rest out
It helps to write it down
Even when you then cross it out

But Always Love, Hate will get you every time
Always Love, Even when you wanna fight

Self-directed lives
I want to know what it’d be like to
Aim so high above
Any card that you’ve been dealt, you…

Always Love, Hate will get you every time
Always Love, Hate will get you-

I’ve been held back by something
Yeah. You said to me quietly on the stairs,
I’ve been held back by something
Yeah. You said to me quietly on the stairs.
You said,
Hey, you good ones.
Hey, you good ones.

To make a mountain of your life
Is just a choice
But I never learned enough
To listen to the voice that told me…
Always love, hate will get you every time
Always love, hate will get you-

I’ve been held back by something
Yeah, You said to me quietly on the stairs,
I’ve been held back by something
Yeah, You said to me quietly on the stairs
You said..
Hey, you good ones
Hey, you good ones
Hey, you good ones