Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

If somebody hits me, am I really expected to turn the other cheek, or is that just a figure of speech? Is it really wrong to defend myself?

New Era

There isn’t an easy answer to this question. Yes, you should turn the other cheek, and no it isn’t wrong to defend yourself. But how can you do both?

Our best example is Jesus Christ and how he lived his life. We know from his example that turning the other cheek is a righteous choice. So often in his life, gross insults were answered with a calm reply or silence.

A lot of potential fights could be stopped if one side or the other simply walked away. Insults shouted in anger are not true just because one hot-headed person says them out loud. And words spoken just to make another person angry are not worth fighting over. These situations are better left alone. There is no disgrace in just walking away from someone who is not in control of their temper or their mouth.

A fight doesn’t solve anything. Many unhappy and violent situations in neighborhoods, in schools, and even between families have come about because each side wants to get revenge. Someone has to take control and put a stop to the cycle of violence by simply refusing to fight any longer.

If you are having trouble controlling your temper, you need to talk to your parents, your Church leaders, or your school counselors. You should not use your emotions as a way of deciding whether you should fight. You need to walk away and give yourself time to calm down.

Fighting someone who is disrespectful towards you or your friends is a complete waste of time and effort. It solves nothing and does little to preserve your so-called “honor.” You know what kind of person you are. Having someone call you names won’t change that.

There are times, of course, when we are called upon to fight for more significant reasons—to defend our homes, our countries, our lives, our religion, or to help someone preserve their rights against a stronger force. We can respond with confidence to those causes.

The story of the sons of Helaman is a good example. The people of Ammon took an oath to lay down their arms and fight no more against the Lamanites. The people of Nephi promised to fight their battles for them. But the Lamanites came in great numbers, and the Nephites paid a great price in those battles. The people of Ammon asked that they be released from their commitment not to fight.

Rather than have them break a sacred oath, Helaman accepted another solution. Their sons, who had not taken the oath as children, gathered and took up weapons to fight alongside the Nephites. The scripture says, “They were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20).

It is hard to imagine one of the stripling warriors fighting in the school parking lot after a sporting event because of the outcome of a game. They were certainly not afraid to fight, but the reasons to participate in a fight had to be both significant and just.

Avoid fighting whenever possible. Violence answered with more violence rarely, if ever, solves a problem. Look for other solutions to disagreements, such as talking them through or simply removing yourself from the heat of the moment.

Readers

Jesus taught us to love our enemies, so I don’t think that fighting should be your first reaction. Sometimes there has just been a misunderstanding that can be solved by talking through the problem.

Sarah Smith, 16 Colorado Springs, Colorado

The answers to most of life’s questions are in the scriptures, and this one can be found there too. In Alma 43:47, it explains why the Nephites went to war with the Lamanites, “to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.”

If you are having a hard time with someone who wants to fight, a good place to start would be to pray that the Lord would guide you in knowing what to do. You might even need to inform the proper authority.

Rachel Elaine Merrill, 16 Celina, Ohio

Turning the other cheek is a wonderful thing to do in a lot of cases. It shows you have more strength and courage than your aggressor.

Yet there are times when turning the other cheek is not the right choice, such as defending a little brother or sister or friend who can’t defend themselves or when called upon to defend your home and country. Listen to the Spirit of the Lord, and you won’t be let down.

Elder Jason Lawrence Clark, 19 Frankfurt Germany Mission

I’ve noticed that fighting back has never really solved matters, but when somebody can just turn around and walk away, they usually gain more respect. I have always respected the person who walks away.

Elder Aaron Lyda, 20 Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission

Being hit and not hitting back is not easy, but turning the other cheek surprises the person who hit you. In a way, you are winning the fight even without hurting the other person.

Shelly Argyle, 14 Duchesne, Utah

Use the Spirit as a guide to help you to know if you should or should not defend yourself. Pray often for guidance.

Rebekah Ross, 13 Campbell, Texas

[photo] Photography by Jed Clark

[illustration] In the Book of Mormon, the story of the 2,000 stripling warriors is one of courage. These young men made a vow to Helaman, their leader, to fight only to defend their freedom. In the scriptures it says, “They were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:21).