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Grad School and ADHD

December 8, 2011 | By Jax Sanders, Ph.D. Student, Physics

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 4.1% of the U.S. adult
population has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Im one of that 4.1%; in
August, I was diagnosed with ADHD, primarily inattentive. Like most adults
diagnosed with ADHD, I had ADHD as a child, but my symptoms did not become
problematic until I was under so much stress that my coping mechanisms were
no longer sufficient. In my case, that stress was graduate school, and I spent
much of my first two years severely impaired. The worst part of it was that to an
outside observer, my difficulties looked for all the world like laziness, while from
the inside, everything felt overwhelming.
The DSM-IV states that for an adult ADHD diagnosis, There must be clear
evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning. Before
graduate school, I wouldnt have qualified for a diagnosis, because I didnt feel
impaired. I rejoiced in the strange ways my brain works, the tangential intuitive
leaps, the great creativity, and the ability to keep many tasks going at once.
Since the symptoms of my iteration of ADHD include issues with self-motivation,
lack of focus, and difficulty working in advance, graduate school made it feel less
like an adventure and more like a serious disability. I compared experiences with
another recently diagnosed graduate student while writing this article, and he
agreed with the particular difficulty of ADHD-inattentive with graduate school
Both of us were asked to leave our first research groups because of the effects of
our ADHD symptoms. I often lost my train of thought with my research entirely,
taking a full week to complete tasks that I know should have taken a few hours
at most. The feeling of inadequacy when compared to student who could do

productive work 12-15 hours a day was punishing, as was my negative self-talk
about my lack of productivity. I intellectually knew I was intelligent, but when I
couldnt focus, when I was doing poorly in my classes, when I was falling behind
on my grading... I felt like I wasnt smart enough, and that I never could be smart
I felt inadequate outside of graduate school as well. Id been living outside of my
parents house since 2006, but I couldnt seem to get on top of the basic tasks of
self-sufficient adulthood. My house was never clean, and I couldnt find the
motivation to care. Dishes were the worst; I would leave one meals dishes to
deal with later, then another, then Id reach a tipping point where Id feel like I
could never finish the dishes and just leave them there. I was also failing at
feeding myself. I couldnt seem to plan ahead well enough to make meals for
when I was hungry, and even when I did, I convinced myself that I needed to get
things done for school and I didnt have the time to make food. My friend also
experienced this difficulty with planning and acquiring food; he solved it by
ordering in too often, while I went the equally unhealthy road of eating far too
In retrospect, it was not only my ADHD that was causing the chaos in my life
over the past two years. My version of ADHD has performance-related anxiety
along with it, and when my ADHD caused me to perform poorly in school, my
anxiety would act up, which would make it even harder for me to focus, which
would make the anxiety worse, and eventually Id lose the ability to do anything
but curl up on the couch, not drink the cup of tea next to me, and stare at the
internet. Since this was keeping me from pursuing the science career Id
dreamed about since I was 10, I developed depressive symptoms. I didnt notice
until later, but I stopped enjoying things. Id been an amateur jazz musician in
college, and I didnt listen to music much. I didnt read books for pleasure. I
didnt feel like dancing, or making new friends, or really much of anything.
Having my official diagnosis helped a lot. The staff at CAPS made it very clear
that I wasnt lazy, I was having legitimate problems, and that they would be
there to help me succeed with my ADHD however I wanted. Ive enjoyed being
part of the ADHD group at CAPS, where we talk about our experiences, think

about new strategies, and work on improving our focus and relationship to the
world using mindfulness meditation. Many of the other members have similar
stories; were all very smart people doing very difficult things, and we all
suddenly couldnt cope. The support group got me started on a lot of strategies
that help me greatly. My two favorites are using timers to break extended tasks
into short bites, and thinking like a waiter.
By using timers, I can get a rational understanding of how long tasks actually
take, which keeps me from falling into the pattern of thinking that I can never
finish them. For example, a full kitchen of dirty dishes takes about fifteen
minutes to clean. Once I was able to conceptualize that, the cleanliness of my
kitchen became far less stressful. Thinking like a waiter is the concept of doing
small things as you see them, and not giving yourself time to put them on a
growing mental task list. E-mail correspondence doesnt get forgotten, coffee
cups dont get left in my office to mold, and great ideas dont get lost because I
forgot to write them down. Strategies dont solve everything for me, but they
help a lot.
As of this writing, Ive started the second week of my medication trial. The
psychiatrist at CAPS and I decided on starting with Concerta, an extendedrelease form of Ritalin, and so far, its been working extremely well. The first
improvement I noticed was that I could filter out background noise. I was able to
notice that the HVAC in my office was on, but it wasnt a distraction, and it didnt
keep me from focusing. The pervasive brain fog that had plagued me for months
lifted almost immediately. I could focus on things when I wanted or needed to,
and I could just as easily stop focusing on them. Fortunately, I appear to tolerate
them extremely well; the only side effects Ive had were an odd twitch in my
right eye the first day and a sharp loss of appetite. I lost five pounds that I
wasnt actually interested in losing in the first four days on the medication. The
other grad student who helped me with this article is on Adderall tablets. Hes
seen a lot of the same positives as I have, but a few different side effects. At
times, hes felt his heart racing for no reason, and hes had problems with a dry

Although both of us have experienced a great improvement during treatment,

we both have some nervousness related to talking about our ADHD to specific
people. The other graduate student is anxious about telling his advisor, since he
feels like hes on thin ice with him already. His greatest fear is that if he tells his
advisor, hell respond that if hes having so many problems with ADHD, he
should leave with his masters and try working a normal job instead of continuing
in academia. I leave his identity unmentioned for this reason, but thank him for
volunteering his experience. Im worried about telling my mom that Ive started
taking medication. When I was telling her about my experience with counseling
and my diagnosis, she was vehemently against the idea of me going on
medication, even though I hadnt mentioned the possibility of talking to a
psychiatrist. I hope that if she finds this post, any uncomfortable conversations
that follow will at least be based in a knowledge of how severe my symptoms
have been, and not an assumption that Im using the ADHD as an excuse to be
Now, Im starting to enjoy things again, listening to more music, learning about
new ideas, and socializing with new friends. Im really looking forward to getting
back to fully enjoying my ADHD. At its best, the ADHD brain has some powerful
gifts. Ive missed being able to appreciate the fact that my brain doesnt have a
box to think outside of, and the powerful, chaotic creativity that drives my work.
I know that Ill never be truly detail-oriented, but at the same time, I wont trip
over details when trying to understand the full scope of a problem. I can keep
multiple tasks running in my mind, but I can also access hyperfocus, a unique,
strange, and intense state of absolute interest and focus. All of the treatment,
both pharmaceutical and psychological, wont make me stop having ADHD, but it
will make my ADHD an asset rather than a profound disability.
Do you see aspects of your experience in mine? If youre distressed by your
brain, there are free resources on campus. CAPS, in the Michigan Union, does
ADHD screenings and counseling. The evaluation takes two to three sessions.
The drop-in ADHD group on Monday at noon has been an extremely valuable
resource for me. There are staff psychiatrists at CAPS, and theres a waiting
period of a month after diagnosis for medication evaluation. An ADHD diagnosis
can also entitle you to formal accommodations through Services for Students

with Disabilities. If you have trouble completing exams in the time allotted due
to distractions or mental blanks, more exam time or a quiet room for exams is a
typical accommodation. I meet with an academic coach there, and she has been
extremely helpful in helping me recognize where my ADHD was causing me
difficulties in time management.
ADHD is a real disorder that can cause significant amounts of distress and
impairment in everyday life. It is not an excuse for laziness; its a difference in
the brain. Adult ADHD is often not obvious because the public concept of the
disorder is that ADHD is for small, hyper children, not intelligent adult graduate
students who suddenly cant cope with their workload. Furthermore, ADHD isnt
a state of being abnormal. I vastly prefer to say that Im not neurotypical.
Being typical is fine for some things, but when youre working on difficult
creative problems, having typical thought processes can be a detriment. The
way my brain works might not be common, average, or pedestrian, but when it
works with me instead of against me, its a powerful advantage.
Source >
Ok, I've got a book I just sort of yanked off the shelf at Barnes & Noble, called "ADD and
the College Student." I'm only an undergrad (for the next month and a half, and then I'll be
finished, thank goodness) and haven't yet read this book due to the fact that my newlydiagnosed butt is having major hyperfocusing problems and ironically doesn't have time to
read a potentially-helpful book.

But here you are:

Following are listed as "


First, you're supposed to make sure your profs know what's up.

"During lecture classes, the ADD student may:

Need to copy the notes of another student in class and may ask the
professor's assistance in finding a note taker.

Need to tape-record the lecture, with the permission of the professor.

Need to sit in the front of the room.

Benefit from the use of visual aids, handouts, and the blackboard.

Need to use a laptop computer.

When Writing Papers, ADD students may:

Need to meet with professors for clarification of writing assignments.

Have rough drafts evaluated by the professor before handing in final

copies. (Done it, once.)

Require extra time to complete writing assignments.<--This is me

right now.

Use an editor for papers before submitting final drafts. (Hey, that
could be handy.)

Need to use a computer for writing assignments.

During examinations, the ADD student may:

Need extended time to complete exams and/or administration of the

exam in an environment free of distraction.

Need to alter the response format of a test.

Need to take exams over a period of time in short intervals.

In terms of auxiliary aids, ADD students may also:

Need to use a calculator for assignments and/or tests.

Need to order textbooks on tape...a process that requires getting a

book list well in advance of the course.

Other accomodations: (non-standard, but some schools will go for it.)

In lecture classes, the ADD student may arrange with the professor to
sit by the door so that after 30 minutes he or she can quietly leave
and walk around for a few minutes.

The ADD student may find it helpful to write and pass in papers in
stages.<--That would be sweet, no?

An ADD student may do better with take-home exams.

ADD students may be permitted to record an exam and pass the tape
in as the final copy. The professor would then grade the exam as an
oral test..."

Those are the things she says. There's no specific mention of "Graduate
School" anywhere, just college in general, but it's probably the same. I do
know that the grad school I'm going to has an office for disability services,
and they'd have a list of the stuff this school will do for you if you provide
proper proof (from your doctor) that you have ADD.
Hope that helps a little, at least. In attempting to answer your question, I've
essentially helped myself, as well, perhaps a bit.
Abused Verses In The Sermon On The Mount
Basically my reading of the Sermon on the Mount follows the
materials produced by Glen Stassen (of Fuller) and Walter Wink
so you might find more helpful material from them if you google
their names and see what comes up.

But for communicating these ideas with young people, I think

theres a great opportunity to act out the section from Mt 5.38-42
(see notes following SO, below).

The important background material to understand is:

1. The Sermon on the Mount is NOT about the so-called antitheses

Jesus is NOT contradicting or abolishing law (as 5.17-20 makes
absolutely plain)!

Rather, Jesus is on about transforming initiatives (Stassens term)

about fulfilling the intent of the laws in a new way through
unexpected grace (or surprising challenges). [Sometimes kids at

Primary and Secondary School have done something like this when
they've looked at how to overcome bullying in non-violent and
creative ways such as 'act cool' don't 'act aggro'].

2. These transforming initiatives follow after Jesus has quoted the

Tradition (You have heard it said . . .) and then explained the
Problem (or vicious cycle as Stassen calls it sometimes these
are implicit rather than explicit). So, for example:

Tradition: You shall not kill (5.21, which is a great law, and if only
Christians alone could agree not to kill each other the world would
be a better place!);

Problem: even if we obey that law, hatred and abuse will still
flourish (5.22);

Transforming initiative: BEFORE you try to worship God go and be

reconciled with anyone who has anything against you!! (5.23-26)
Now wouldnt that make a difference if we tried PEACEMAKING AS A
making peace with people WE dont like, but rather, finding out
who has something against us, and reconciling with them!! That
requires a lot of openness and communication.

3. These transforming initiatives are all explained in a patriarchal

culture (which makes a big difference to how we understand 5.27ff
and 5.31ff); a colonised culture (under the Romans important for
5.38ff); and an agonistic culture (that is, a culture where
honour/shame are primary values a bit like in the Mafia movies!
Important for understanding 5.38ff too).

SO, when we come to the

Tradition: You have heard it said, An eye for an eye . . . (which

again, is a good law as an expression of justice in cultures where
retribution was often over the top); we see the

Problem: but I say to you, do not resist evil/evil doers violently (or:
do not resist by evil means) (entrenched reaction to
evil/violence against evil polarising the issue does not lead to
transformation!); and then follow the

Transforming initiatives:

a) When someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek (ie. as a master

would backhand a slave to publicly shame them), turn the other
cheek (ie. invite them to hit you again AS AN EQUAL you cant
backhand on the left cheek with the right hand; note that the left
hand is not used for food or human contact). That is: challenge them
to treat you as a person and not a possession;

b) When someone tries to sue you even to the point of taking your
coat, give them your undercoat/shirt as well (that is, suggest they
strip you naked, which in Jewish culture at least, would publicly
shame them and you)! That is: force them to take account of what
they are doing to you!;

c) When a Roman soldier forces you to carry their load for one mile
(as marked by the Roman milestones on all Roman roads, and as
explicitly permitted under Roman law), try to carry it for an extra
mile also (which is NOT permitted under Roman law and may get the
soldier into trouble) forcing them again to consider what they are
doing to you and how they are exploiting you;

d) BUT when someone BELOW you on the social scale (rather than in
a position of power, as in the examples above) comes and begs from
you, show mercy (5.42).

SO instead of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, maybe its
an eyeful for an eye and a truth for a tooth!!

These transforming initiatives are more difficult for us to see in

what Jesus says about adultery and divorce but they are there
nonetheless. The clue is to recognize the patriarchal assumptions of
the culture of the day (and still of our day!), and that Jesus directly
challenges those assumptions in what he says. That is: you men
take responsibility for how you look at women and how you think
about them (and take drastic action forcefully, but figuratively
stated!! to avoid the evil consequences of your unbridled lusts);
you men (and only men could divorce under Jewish law at the time)
take responsibility for the way you force women into adultery by
your abuse of the divorce laws (by upgrading and discarding wives
and leaving them vulnerable

Again, Jesus does not oppose the Mosaic laws (including the divorce
provisions again, read Mt 5.17-20), but rather focuses on the
transforming initiative that will fulfill the intent of those laws as
they are justly interpreted and applied.

Keith Dyer (Whitley College, Melbourne)


Loving Enemies with Holy Mischief Sermon from Sunday

Posted on February 21, 2011

Matthew 5:38-48
Delivered to Church for the Highlands: Sunday, February 20, 2011

John Henson

Audio Podcast is here.> http://preachingrhythm.com/2011/02/21/loving-enemies-with-holy-mischief-sermon-from-sunday/

ENEMIES. They are always around, arent they? Ralph Waldo Emerson put this fact
nicely when he wrote, He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare. And he
who has one enemy will meet him everywhere. Isnt that the truth? Our enemies are
unavoidable. And it is inevitable that you and I will have an enemy of one sort pretty
much at any time as we go through life. They come in all shapes and sizes. They may
be among our family members, coworkers, classmates, abusers, bullies, systems,
bosses, etc. Enemies are something we all have and we all deal with them in various
ways, some healthy and others unhealthy. What I have found in life and certainly
throughout a study of history is that we rarely relate to enemies in a productive, healthy
way. We have had different approaches personally, nationally, etc. and none of them
ever seem to work. So what are we to do with our enemies, especially as followers of
This is something Jesus brought up with the disciples who had gathered on that hillside
where Jesus was preaching what we now call the Sermon on the Mount. As he looked
out at them, he fully realized their struggles with their enemies. Some of them may
have been enemies with each other, but, even more, they all had at least one enemy in
common: the Roman government. And Jesus himself was already collecting enemies.
His really began at birth when Herod expressed his jealous and paranoid actions upon
the firstborns of Israel. Jesus would continue to find himself surrounded by enemies.
So, this topic for this segment of his sermon was nothing but relevant. And it is nothing
but relevant for us, as we have our enemies of today. How are we to relate to our
enemies? What are we to do with people who are intent on doing us harm and making
our lives miserable?
Our record as Christians would show that we have messed this up at times. It is
interesting to trace Christians response to enemies throughout history, from the early
church, pre-Constantine Christianity, to post-Constantine Christianity, to Augustines
Just War. Then, there are the Crusades, the Inquisition, Americas Manifest Destiny and
warfare against the Native Americans, domestic violence rates in Christian families, etc.
One example is with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is the subject of a bestseller book right
now. Bonhoeffer, after an ethical struggle, decided his best option was to take up
violence by assassinating Hitler as a way to counter Hitlers evil. But the plan failed and

the result was the unleashing of even more violence spewing from Hitler. Violence
begat more violence. Its obvious that none of this works. So what is it that works?
We find an answer to this as we look closely at what Jesus is really saying and doing
here in our text today. What we find is that Jesus, just like with the other areas
mentioned last week, has developed a whole new way of living out Gods plan for the
world. It is what I would like to refer to today as the Third Way, a term coined by Walter
Wink. What is this Third Way? Well it helps us to look at Way 1 and Way 2 first.
Way 1 of dealing with enemies was what is described here in Jesus quote of the Law.
He states, You have heard it said, . . . and refers to the Law about eye for an eye and
tooth for a tooth. This was their way of dealing with one another when injury or death
occurred. It was tit for tat and provided approval for balanced retaliation against ones
enemies. This was the standard and accepted way of dealing with your enemies. It
was unheard of to consider compassion or love for them. Later, after Jesus teaching
that upturned this way of dealing with enemies, Augustine developed a way for
Christians to deal with enemies that was an extension of tit for tat. The idea was that
retaliation and violence to enemies is only acceptable if it in self-defense, primarily in
defense of my neighbor whom I am commanded to love. Loving my neighbor means
defending her or him when assaulted by an enemy. This thinking became known as
Just War, and would be used against the Roman Empire and misused ever since for
many an unjust war.
Way 2 is the passive approach to enemies. This is the view we often mistakenly
attribute to Jesus and what he meant by turn the other cheek. It is the idea that Jesus
taught that Christians should not resist those who oppose them, but to take their abuse
or injustice as just part of the cost of following Jesus. This indeed sounds noble, but, as
we will soon see, this is not what Jesus is teaching here. If anything, Jesus provides a
great model for resistance, creative resistance intended to humiliate and shame ones
enemy. This Way 2 is what is sometimes referred to as Pacifism and many religious
groups today hold to this idea.
So, what is Way 3, this Third Way of Jesus? We find it here in the Gospel text, in
looking at these examples that Jesus gives. Lets hear them again.
The first one that Jesus mentioned was the one I think we most misunderstand. And for
that reason, it is the one we most dislike. We dont like turning the other cheek or the

thought of having to take a beating. We would much rather use our fists than our
Hear again what Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a
tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on
the right cheek, turn the other also; So, just hearing this seems to indicate that Jesus
wants us to offer ourselves up for another beating. But, the way the people in Jesus
time heard it is very different. It had to do with the customs of the day and what it meant
for someone to strike you. These people were used to being slapped around.
As Walter Wink puts it,
By turning the cheek, the servant makes it impossible for the master to use his backhand again; his nose
is in the way . . . The left cheek now offers a perfect target for a blow with the right fist, but only equals
fought with fists, as we know from Jewish sources, and the last thing the master wishes is to establish
this underlings equality. This act of defiance renders the master incapable of asserting his dominance in
this relationship. By turning the cheek, then, the inferior is saying: Im a human being, just like you. I
refuse to be humiliated any longer. I am your equal. I am a child of God. I wont take it anymore.

Now, can you imagine how this was received by the crowd of disciples that day? Can
you just imagine how this empowered and encouraged them in their status? Yes, this
was a different way of relating to enemies all together and it certainly isnt a passive
approach to an enemys abuse or violent tactics.
The same kind of tactic is seen in Jesus example of the cloak. Jesus said, . . . and if
anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone
forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from
you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. In fact, its quite
humorous when you hear it within their cultural context. It would be normal for a debtor
to use his clothing as collateral on a loan if that is all he had left. But the clothing was
only to be the outer garment. Jesus told them not to stop there, but to inflict shame on
the person taking them to court by stripping down to nothing, by offering not just their
coat, but every thing they had. This was a way to point out the injustice of beating down
the poor, who were in such a state because of unjust practices against them. This
would be a way for them, the powerless, to get the upper hand through exposing the
shame of their creditors.

And then there is the backpack strategy. Jesus said, . . . and if anyone forces you to go
one mile, go also the second mile. It was not unusual for a Roman soldier to demand a
Jew to carry his backpack for him, but only for one mile, according to Roman law. So,
Jesus instructed his disciples to, when this happens, go ahead and carry it another
mile. This would make the solider look barbaric and would get him in trouble. Here
again, you can see the brilliance of Jesus tactics in taking action against enemies rather
than preaching passive submission. And such action, while direct, was with radical

So, you say, this is all great and maybe even fun, but how does this work for me, with
my enemies? My enemies might fire me or beat me senseless or just shoot me. I might
get fired for using such tactics against my unethical boss. How will it work when you go
to your office tomorrow, or to a school with bullies, or driving around town and dealing
with hostile drivers on the way to work? What does this mean for me?
It means first of all to love them. It must be kept in mind that Jesus is not advocating
mischief and action just for the sake of winning against the enemy. No, what he is
about here is love. It is all about love. This is the foundation for the Kingdom of God
that Jesus teaches about and lives out with his life, even unto death on the cross. And
you must remember Jesus words here to love your enemies, just as you love your
family and friends. And you are to be so familiar with the love of God in your life that
your thoughts, actions and responses flow out of a deep well of Gods love within you.
It also means to make a commitment to non-violence in your response to your
enemies. In every nonviolent movement, like we recently saw in Egypt, there is always
the tendency to become violent when the enemy hits hard and inflicts evil on the
nonviolent. So, there must be a commitment, a pledge, to staying nonviolent even
when things get difficult and even deadly. Remember that violence begets more
violence, but love Jesus-style brings victory. Turn off, then, the itchy and scratchy style
video or a Saw 3 movie playing in your head for your enemy and envision what it will be
like to kill your enemy with kindness.
It means to have a bit of fun with them, with your creative resistance to their actions. Its
what Shane Claiborne refers to as Holy Mischief. I believe Jesus wants us to use our
God-given imaginations to come up with innovative ways of preventing our enemies and

their hatred from shining brighter than the abundant and powerful love of God. Before
reacting or responding out of anger or self-defense, take some time to plan out a
scheme that will make Jesus smile and nod with a teachers approval. There are some
great examples of this in Shane Claibornes The Irresistible Revolution, in Gandhis
tactics against the British rule in India, and with Martin Luther Kings nonviolent
resistance in the civil rights movement here in America (also, think Rosa Parks simple
tactic of keeping her seat on the bus).

Finally, it means to have redemption as your goal with them. Even with Jesus tactics to
humiliate and shame his enemies, his actions had a redemptive goal and end. You can
see this as he interacted with his enemies, like when he put Malchus chopped-off ear
back on. You see it in Jesus even while he gets hung on the cross, Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do. Our actions are to have the same redemptive
goal in mind. We are not to destroy our enemies, but to love them into the Kingdom of
There is so much more for us to consider here, and I hope you will follow some of the
footnotes in the sermon this week and do some study of your own. I do want to close
with a quote from my favorite author I ran across again this week. It is from Magnificent
Defeat by Frederick Buechner. Here what he has to say about loving our enemies,

The love for equals is a human thing of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving
and lovely. The world smiles.
The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing the love for those who suffer, for those who are
poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.
The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice
without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man.
The world is always bewildered by its saints.
And then there is the love for the enemy love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens,
and inflicts pain. The tortureds love for the torturer.
This is Gods love. It conquers the world.

Conquering the world with Gods love is exactly what Jesus was all about that day and
with every day of his life. And isnt this what we are to be about, to conquer the world
with Gods love? May you greet your enemies with such love this week.

http://thinkexist.com/quotations/enemies/4.html 2 Wink, Walter. The Powers that Be: Theology for a New

Millennium. Augsburg Fortress. 1998. Chapter 5 is titled Jesus Third Way. I am indebted to Winks explanation of
this part of the Sermon on the Mount and I have found it to be the clearest, easiest to apply understanding of Jesus
teaching on dealing with enemies. To keep from footnoting every instance, I preface this section by noting that I am
borrowing concepts and ideas from Wink in re: to this Third Way. 3Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution:
Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan. 2006. Page 279.

I ran across the quote this week



Up The Downward Spiral


By Geno Sisneros
(20 Feb 2011 00:00:00) > Epiphany 7

> Matthew 5:38-48

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that when I saw the Gospel reading
the lectionary called for today, a small part of me wanted to call in
sick. I find Jesus' words in this text some of the most challenging in
the whole of the New Testament. I'll be honest, I did try to call in
sick but our priest-in-charge only responded to my text with a
hearty laugh. So.... here I am.
The part of today's Gospel reading that is causing my anxiety are
Jesus' words, You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.
This text has long been used to show that Jesus was a pacifist in the
strictest sense of the term completely and absolutely opposed to
violence or the use of force in any situation.

I do get the whole condemnation of the eye for eye, tooth for tooth
mentality. Someone once said a society who lives by that type of
justice ends up becoming an eyeless, toothless society. But I also
realise the sentiment behind that mentality was a way to put a limit
on just how much a wronged party could exact in retribution from
you. For example, you could not demand the life of a person who
stole cattle from you under this type of justice. But you could
demand something equivalent up to the value of the stolen cattle,
but nothing more.
So mainly, my anxiety is that I've never been comfortable with the
interpretation of the rest of the text. Do not resist an evildoer
and if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.
That Jesus commands us to become a doormat, a punching bag,
when someone punches you in your stomach, are you to lift up your
head and let them knock out your teeth as well, it seems
unreasonable! I cannot imagine giving a person in an abusive
relationship such horrible advice saying - Jesus said, turn the other
cheek. But Jesus doesn't seem to allow for any exceptions here or
am I wrong?
As Biblical scholar Walter Wink has said, Jesus understood this way,
makes him impractical, masochistic, suicidal, doormat, cowardly,
But having said all that, as Christians we know through our faith
and through our past experience that the text can indeed bless us
because we believe in the integrity and the message of Jesus. But
from my perspective, things are not looking so good for this
particular text. But - like Jacob wrestling with the angel of the Lord
for his blessing, I'm willing to wrestle with Jesus to try to get mine.
Theology students are taught the most important tool in Biblical
Studies during their first year - putting text into context. This
means that we acknowledge that we cannot wrestle with a Biblical
text without looking at the three worlds that exist around any given
piece of Biblical writing. These three worlds are: the world in the
text (in this case Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount), the
world behind the text (the Sermon on the Mount only appears in
Matthew's Gospel so the context here is the community Matthew
wrote for) and the world in front of the text (this is you and I).

Matthew wrote probably a few years after the Temple had been
destroyed and Jerusalem had fallen at the hands of the emperor
Titus in the year 70. We know that each of the four Gospels
strongly reflect what was happening in the life of the community to
whom they were written for. At the time Matthew's Gospel was
written his community was in the midst of transition and great
distress. Themes of oppression and conflict were still very real to
them. So its easy to see why Matthew's Jesus provides teaching on
these themes.
When Matthew's Jesus says to not 'resist' an evildoer, the Greek
word translated as resist is antistenai. Literally, anti which is
'against' and stenai which is 'stand' - to 'stand against'. Do not
stand against an evildoer. We see this word many times in the
Hebrew Bible where it is used mainly in military terms. The image is
that of two armies pushing against each other, neither backing
down until they have annihilated the other.
Matthew's Jesus used this word explicitly because he knew it would
incite images of military and war in the minds of his listeners. This
sentence is a teaching about the response to military force.
Walter Wink's inspiring interpretation here is that evolution equips
us with two responses in the face of that kind of violence, fight-orflight. That is either, to fight back using violence against violence,
or to run only to be hunted down or sit passively by and be killed.
Wink believes that Jesus is challenging us in this text to find a Third
Way. In saying do not stand against an oppressor; Jesus is
warning us not to become what we hate. Answering violence with
violence takes us down the downward spiral of more violence.
And what of the next sentence, But if anyone strikes you on the
right cheek, turn the other also.
If we think literally about this sentence it sounds here like Jesus is
speaking only to left-handed people! But I dont think he thought
they were more violent than right-handed people so there must be
something more to it? To strike someone on the right cheek would
require that we be left-handed. But we know in the Jewish culture
of first century Palestine, the left hand was considered unclean.
You wouldn't wave out to someone in the street with your left hand
and you certainly wouldnt strike them with it.

Aside from the fact that the left hand was considered unclean, the
left hand symbolized the power to shame society and was used as a
metaphor for misfortune.[2]
The word left was a negative term. Even today we use the word
'right' as the opposite of wrong/left. The Greek word Orthodox
means right thinking, as opposed to left or wrong thinking. We
have a bill of rights, not a bill of lefts. The English word
sinister comes from Latin for the word 'left'.
Matthews community would have understood the connotation here.
To strike someone on the right cheek, you would have to use the
back of your right hand. You would back-hand them. Back handing
someone is not usually used to injure them but to humiliate them.
The back hand was used by a master to a slave, by a husband to his
wife, by a father to any of his children. The idea here is that if
someone backhanded me on my right cheek, turning the other
cheek to them would be a way to protest their mal-treatment of
me, a way of re-affirming my humanity and of highlighting their
shameful behavior.
I think all of these understandings also serve to illustrate that
violence is never actually just about violence , it is always about
domination. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is seeking to teach
non violent responses to domination. Jesus was challenging
Matthews community to find a Third Way.
The past few weeks have been remarkable. The uprisings by the
people of Tunisia and Egypt, among other places, have shown that
with united minds and united voices, sometimes, there can be a
Third Way. History has also shown that to be true. The Third Way in
these situations have been about nonviolent protest and civil
disobedience not resisting violence on its own terms. However, I
cant help but think of the victims of genocide throughout history
and what the Third Way meant for them. The Third Way, at times,
seems easier said than done.I wish I could say that Ive completely
wrestled my blessing out of the text, but I havent. I do have a
greater understanding and a greater appreciation of Jesus teaching
and because of that, I believe God, through Jesus, has given us
hope. I pray that more and more each day, our hearts and minds
are opened wider to the Third Way. In the meantime, I will keep

wrestling, and I hope


The Beatitudes: Pathways of Living in True Joy and

by Virginia Schurman
Reflections and Queries for Sharing

The teachings of Jesus called the Beatitudes, recorded in the gospels of Matthew (5:1-10)
and Luke (6:20-23), are an invitation to a way of living that brings true happiness and
both inward and outward peace. The beatitudes call us to a radically new way of being
when we center our lives on God, and we become transformed. The beatitudes call us to
true happiness and the deepest of joy as we find our true identity in our relationship
with God and true peace both inwardly and outwardly.
Beatitude is Latin for an abundant happiness. In his lesson on the Beatitudes, Jesus
calls us to an abundant happiness that makes us complete and whole, in which we find
our true selves, the person that God intends us to be. God leads us to a transformation of
ourselves, gives us the ability to see what needs to be transformed and to find Gods help
in that transformation. They lead us to a peace and joy to be experienced here and now:
in knowing Christs Living Presence. Just as He did over 2000 years ago in Galilee, the
Living Christ brings joy as He seeks us through and accompanies us in our pain. He
brings a joy which sorrow and loss and pain and grief are powerless to touch, a
happiness that shines through our tears. This is a joy that nothing in life or death can
take away, because nothing in life or death can separate us from the love of Christ
(Romans 8:38-39). As Jesus said, no one will take your joy from you (John 16:22).

Each Beatitude begins with the word blessed. The Greek word translated as blessed
means extremely fortunate, well off, and truly happy because one is favored by God.
To live the Beatitudes is to be centered on God and Gods desires for our life. They invite
us to live in a true inward peace that leads to a desire to be outward peacemakers, to
bring reconciliation, to seek out opportunities for mercy and compassion, to pursue
justice and righteousness as a hunger and thirst. We live the Beatitudes where we are
right now, one day at a time, one leading at a time, and one action at a time. We live
them realizing that we are imperfect, that we make mistakes, and need forgiveness. We
live them with confidence in Jesus promise of a joy and peace that only God can give.
The eight Beatitudes in Matthew can be arranged into two categories. The first reflect a
longing for a deeper relationship with God (blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn). The second
group reveal the transformation of our lives as fruits of that relationship (blessed are the
pure of heart, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted). The first group
brings us into closer relationship with God which results in the transformation of our
lives described in the second group.

The beatitudes leading to longing for a deeper relationship with God

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled
(Matthew 5:6)
In the days in which Jesus lived and taught, it was common for people to be literally
dying of hunger and thirst. They lived where both food and water were scare. Jesus asks
in this Beatitude whether we want a deeper relationship with God as much as a starving
person wants food, or as much as one dying of thirst wants water. Jesus message echoes
the experiences of the Psalmist: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs
for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:1). The soul longs
for spiritual food and finds it in Christs presence.
When Jesus uses the word righteousness, He refers to living in accordance with Gods
desires for us, in right relationship with God and with others. How much do we hunger
and thirst to initiate and sustain righteous relationships in all aspects of our daily lives?

Queries for reflection and sharing on this Beatitude:

1. For what do I most hunger and thirst? How much do I long for a closer relationship
with God?
2. What draws me closer to God? Away from God?
3. How does the Holy Spirit call me to become more centered and in right relationship
with God and with others?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:1)
This beatitude can be paraphrased as I need help, I cant do it alone. Jesus calls us to
realize our own spiritual helplessness and to put our whole trust in God. Being poor in
spirit leads us to humbleness before God.
We become poor in spirit when everything we rely on falls apart. For some, it is losing
loved ones, for others, failure of a cherished dream or ambition, loss of a job, loss of
faith in others or ourselves, prolonged periods of dryness in our spiritual life, illness, or
other experiences.
In these painful times, in this poverty of spirit, we learn to redefine our attachments. We
learn not to rely on the usual things that our culture relies on to define ones identity:
wealth, status, possessions, and even other people. All of these can be taken from us,
and we learn that God alone is the only enduring one. We find our true self in our
relationship with God.
Jesus says that the poor in spirit are received into the kingdom (or rule or reign) of
heaven, where all of creation is once again in right relationship with God and with each
other. Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is within (Luke 17:21), as we grow in
relationship to the Inward Christ. We learn that our needs and concerns are important,
but so are the needs and concerns of others. We learn how to love others with a true
compassion. We are more open to seeing God at work in the creation and in others. We
learn how to live in ways that our life becomes more unified. We learn that the only real
peace comes from our relationship with God and in living in Gods realm.

In this beatitude, Jesus echoes the promises of the Psalms: I sought the Lord and He
answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him and be radiant; so your
faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was
saved from every trouble (Psalm 34:4-6).
Queries for reflection and sharing:
1. What has been my experience of becoming poor in spirit? How has that helped or
hindered me in my relationship with God?
2. What helps me to rely more and more on the Holy Spirit and to center my life on
3. What helps me to become more a part of Gods realm (Gods way of being and doing)
in my daily life? in my home life? at work?, in my community?, in the Meeting?, in the
wider world?

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4)
There is an Arab proverb paraphrased as All sunshine makes a desert. A desert is a
place where no fruit can grow. There are many things that sorrow can do. It can bring us
to a total reliance on God that would not have been possible in the good times. Sorrow
can make us more compassionate toward others, since we have walked in their shoes
and know their pain and sorrow first hand. Sorrow can show us the essential kindness of
others who reach out to us in our need. Sorrow can show us the comfort and compassion
of Christ, who walks with us in our sorrow and is a compassionate and understanding
companion because He has experienced deep sorrow Himself in his earthly life. In
sorrow, we are driven to the deep places of life and a new strength and beauty can enter
our soul.
Those who sorrow and mourn include those grieving over the death of a loved one, those
who are in physical pain, and those who have a disabling condition such as a chronic
disease. Those who mourn include the hungry, the homeless, the persecuted, those
without hope, and those suffering from depression or mental illness. It includes those
who feel their own shortcomings and their lack of love for God and for others.

Jesus promises that each of us will be comforted by the presence of the Living Christ,
who walks with us in our pain. We are also led through our experiences of pain to
become comforters to others. The word that Jesus uses for comfort also means, to
encourage, to excite, to urge. We become truly compassionate through our experiences
of pain. We are enabled to be Gods helpers and to reach out in love to others because we
know their pain first hand. Comfort is promised by the Psalmist My soul languishes for
your salvation; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:82)
Queries for reflection and sharing:
1. How has mourning in all its manifestations brought me closer to God and others?
2. In what ways have suffering and difficulties brought new openings in my spiritual
The Beatitudes showing us the ways in which our relationship with God
transforms us and our lives
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Jesus used the word heart as we would mind or will. In the days of Jesus earthly
life, the heart was considered the source of an individuals thoughts, desires, and
actions. The person was whatever his or her heart was. In the Hebrew Bible, only
Yahweh could truly know ones heart. The Psalmist wrote, Those with clean hands and
a pure heart will ascend the hill of the Lord. (Psalm 24:3-5) and Truly God is good to
the upright, to those who are pure of heart (Psalm 73:1)
In Jesus, we see what it is like to be pure in heart. He took on human nature and
modeled a life centered on God. He was constantly in touch with God and did Gods will
in all things. He accepted lowliness and poverty. He had a particular regard for those
rejected by others; the ones that others rejected and did not love the poor, the
prisoners, the sick, and the women and children. To become pure of heart is to have all
aspects of our lives centered on God, our thoughts, desires, and actions. To become pure
of heart means that all aspects of our life radiate from our experiences of Gods love.
Queries for reflection and sharing:

1. What encourages me to place God more and more at the center of my life, so that my
thoughts, desires, and actions flow from that Center?
2. What helps me to seek and be content with Gods will in all things?
3. Are there impediments in my spiritual life, which are hindering my growth?

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5)
This beatitude echoes Psalm 37:11: the meek shall inherit the land and delight in
abundant prosperity. The meaning of meekness is very complex. The Greek word
meek can also be translated as humble or powerless. It is not being a doormat.
Meekness arises from being centered on God. It is a fruit of being pure in heart, of living
out Gods will in all aspects of our daily life. The apostle Paul says that the meek exercise
self control in all things. For example, meekness is knowing, with Gods guidance when
to get angry and how to get angry. Jesus, as the example of meekness in all things, called
the self-righteous hypocrites and whitewashed tombs, and drove the moneychangers
from the temple but did not resist His persecutors when He was arrested and tried. The
meek Jesus lived His life in balance and never in the extremes of destructive rage on one
hand or cowardice on the other. Meekness makes us self-possessed and lets us see the
truth about ourselves and others that we can miss when were overwhelmed by emotion.
Meekness toward others implies loving-kindness and gentleness of spirit, and a freedom
from malice and a vengeful spirit. Meekness is also how we respond to others in the face
of insult and suffering. The meek do not resist evil, but overcome evil with good
(Matthew 5:39).
There is also meekness toward God, when we are so open to Gods guidance that we do
not reject it even when it challenges us to change or to do something that we personally
dislike. Meekness involves resignation, a calm acquiescence to Gods will for us.
Meekness is one of Gods gifts to us, one of the fruits of the Spirit described by Paul in
Galatians (5:22-23).
Meekness helps us live a true humility and makes us teachable, because the more we
grow spiritually, the more we realize how little we do know, and that in our spiritual life

it is not possible or important to know everything. In meekness, we come to trust in

God, that what we do need to know will be revealed to us, as we need it, and that
walking with God is taking only one step at a time in faith.
Queries for reflection and sharing:
1. What are my experiences of being meek with others and with God? of being resigned
to Gods will?
2. What helps me to live in balance and not in destructive rage or wimpiness?
3. How does the Spirit help me to develop kindness, gentleness, self-control, patience,
and humbleness? to temper my anger? to love all people, even those who irritate me?

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7)
The word mercy is used in the Bible to refer to Gods actions. In being merciful, we are
reflections of Gods Love. Mother Theresa of Calcutta devoted her life to help the dying,
who were outcasts and rejected by everyone else. She wrote that she was led to do this to
share the great love that God had given her and because she saw Christ coming to her in
these outcasts to be loved and to be served.
The Aramaic word that Jesus used for mercy implies that we identify with others: we
see things as others see them, we feel as others feel, we are going through what the other
person is going through because we have experienced the same things ourselves. Our
experiences allow us to know what that person needs and to respond in a way that is
right for them. They also make forgiveness easier because we understand a persons
reasons for thinking and acting in a certain way. This is what God did for us by
becoming human in Jesus, who learned by experience to see with a persons eyes, to
experience with a persons feelings, to think with a persons thoughts. He came to know
all the joys and sorrows of being human first hand.
Queries for reflection and sharing:
1. How have my experiences helped me to be more loving to others? To identify with
them, help them, and to forgive them?

2. How does the Holy Spirit help me to be merciful? What have been my struggles in
being merciful and forgiving?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of

God(Matthew 5:9)
The word peace is used in the Bible over 400 times. The Hebrew word shalom,
which we translate into English as peace, has many meanings. It means more than the
absence of war or conflict. It means a condition of completeness, in which nothing is
lacking. It means perfection, in which everything which makes for a person highest
good is present. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh is peace. In the Christian Bible, Jesus is
the Prince of Peace. Jesus, in His final talk with His disciples before His death, said
Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you (John 14:27). When one is at peace, one is in
a perfect state of well being within ones self and with others and is in perfect synchrony
with God.
What does it mean to be a peacemaker? First, we accept Gods gift of peace ourselves,
the inward peace that we know when we live our lives in Christs Living presence and
according to Gods guidance. We have peace within ourselves and are given purity of
heart when our whole heart and life is given over to God. From this overwhelming
experience of the abundance of Gods love, we are led to be loving to others. We know
that this loving may be very costly to us. On one hand, it may be well received and
returned or we may be rejected or persecuted for it. Jesus understands this all too well.
It is one of the mysteries of the Cross. Jesus also understands that it was only this
radical love, which dared to love while expecting no love in return, that can cut across
and end the mounting barriers of increasing revenge and hatred, which dominate our
Queries for reflection and sharing:
1. Have there been times in my life in which Gods love has brought me to a place of
internal peace?
2. In what ways am I led to be a peacemaker in my home life? at work? in my
community?, in the Meeting?, in the wider world?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is
the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:10)
Those who have devoted their life to God and living by Gods values and are being led in
all things by God, are inevitably going to challenge systems based on other values. Gods
realm of love, righteousness, truth and justice challenges systems built on the opposite
values of power, greed, oppression, falsehood, and the exploitation of others and the
Jesus Himself knew persecution, as did the Early Christians and the Early Friends.
Persecution can take many forms death, imprisonment, shunning, verbal expressions,
etc. We are called to be meek and respond to persecution with loving-kindness.
Queries for reflection and sharing:
1. In what ways am I called to challenge systems built on power, greed, oppression,
falsehood, and exploitation of others and of the creation?
2. Is my witness strong enough -am I doing anything worthy of being persecuted?
3. Do I love and pray for those who persecute me?
The beatitudes call us to a new way of being and doing that can radically transform our
lives and the lives of all we touch. They bring true happiness and the deepest of joy as we
find our true identity in our relationship with God and true peace both inwardly and