Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), (attributed)
“How dare she!” – “That was mean” – “That’s it – it’s over.” – “How could he do that to me”
Someone has wronged us or betrayed us. Anger rises. It simmers in our thoughts as we contemplate our revenge: “Just wait” – “I’ll get even with you”.
And we repeat to ourselves over and over again the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it. Our expectations, whether appropriate or not, have been trampled.
Now we continue that pain as we replay over and over again what was done to us. As we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal, we soon have a raging furnace inside of us, our stomach churning into hard knots; yet we feel chilled to the bone. Each time we re-play the events, we become more victimized and traumatized. Each time we review the offence, our desire for revenge gets stronger and stronger.
It doesn’t matter that it was a loving spouse, a sister, or trusted friend – what was, is no more. You had been a loyal and good friend – and now you have been betrayed. You thought your love would last forever, but now the affair revealed the great deceit against your relationship. Humiliation and shame move in with anger. You have been vilified. You have every right to be angry. You have every right for revenge.
“Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time:as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy;its after-flavor, metallic and corroding gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned.” Charlotte Bronte
The problem with revenge, however, is that it doesn’t resolve anything. Even if that revenge is only played out in our heads, there is no sweet satisfaction. We remain stuck in a cycle of endless need for justification and retribution.
And each time we lament on how unfair life has been, we continue to beat ourselves up, continue to feel the pain. Any dreams or goals we may have been pursuing has been replaced with settling of scores; our grievances turning hard and rigid inside of us until all we taste is bitterness.
What someone has done to you – you are now doing to yourself.
Words have physical responses within our bodies. With the first shock, you felt like someone had punched you in the stomach. As you repeat the events, the words continue to keep you in a state of turmoil and high stress.
Whenever you “gear up” for a battle in your mind, you are gearing up your body to take some kind of action. When there is no action you can take, the chemicals and hormones dumped into your system begin to eat away at you – physically.
Stress has turned into dis-stress.
What can you do?
1. Acknowledge that you have been wronged. Acknowledge that you are angry. Accept that it has happened.
2. Ask: I have been hurt; but do I want to continue hurting myself?
3. Am I willing to let go of the injustice and use my energy in more constructive ways?
There is a reason why Jesus said to forgive 70 x’s 7. It is not so we become self righteous. It is to keep us from destroying ourselves.
Retribution and revenge is not seeking justice. It just continues a cycle of unhappiness and bitterness with no end.