Tolstoy’s Resistance to Non-Resistance

I find most of Tolstoy’s spiritu-politica-philosophical writings to be very intuitive, common-sensical, simple, and perfectly difficult.

However, there is one proclamation of Tolstoy’s that I’m not sure I completely agree with. Sadly, it’s the view he seems to have been most passionate about: non-resistance to evil. I have ebbing and flowing thoughts about this, the current of which being as follows:

Tolstoy preached non-resistance to evil by way of Jesus’ preaching (specifically, “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies”).

Throughout his writings on the concept, he paints resistance to evil as an evil itself. However, arguing against (and protesting against) resistance to evil is an act of resistance to evil in and of itself, isn’t it?

Don’t mistake that I believe I’ve suddenly discovered some critical weakness in Tolstoy’s reasoning for the lens through which he viewed the world. He likely thought and meditated on this subject much more than I. I’m only stating why I have difficulty buying into it.

Full disclosure: I’m also (I believe) naturally inclined in favor of resistance to evil if only to defend the lives of my wife and daughter. But I’m not sure I’m so cavalier as I might sound. I was bullied frequently as a teen. To this day, if I perceive that someone is relating to me in a way similar to that of my old bullies, my initial desire is attack. I’m nowhere near as sound of spirit, soul, and mind as Tolstoy and the like.

I just…I don’t think life is possible without resistance everywhere at all times. Gravity pulls on the stone which is resisted by the ground. By standing we resist gravity. By speaking we resist the contents of air. By writing we exert force upon our medium which resists us (and we resist its resistance).

Maybe I’m misunderstanding Tolstoy’s understanding of resistance. There’s also the process of translation to consider.

In Tolstoy’s favor, I do assume that either I’m misunderstanding him or something is lost in translation (or, as is more likely, both).

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