Extra Miles

Arrogance is an unpleasant characteristic, especially when one thinks one perceives it in the morning mirror. I find myself musing on where arrogance ends and self-respect begins, and the grey patchwork in which I find myself seems a little directionless sometimes. The wisdom of the Gospels, Mahatma Gandhi and MLK did flit across my mind, however. When Christ invited his hearers to ‘turn the other cheek’ he was specific about the right cheek. A right handed man would slap with the back of his right hand on his victim’s right cheek, a symbol of arrogant disdain. Offering the other cheek is therefore provocative. ‘Go on! Be a man and hit me again with your right hand on my left cheek! I dare you…” Again, a penniless labourer in a field might pawn his coat for the day and the employer would take it as short term security. At the end of a day’s work and the man could not perhaps afford to redeem his coat, offering instead his cloak, this would leave him naked, thus shaming the greedy employer, who custom dictated might very well return the original garment anyway as a charitable gesture.

A Roman soldier had a legal right to demand that a civilian carry his pack for a measured mile. Volunteering to carry it for a second mile would bring the lazy soldier to the attention both of his comrades and of his centurion, who might well order the equivalent of a Code Red and the civilian ends up the moral victor. Moral conquest isn’t arrogance, it’s simply just.

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