Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
– Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
“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 the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it.
What felt like a kick in the stomach the first time is repeatedly replayed as we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal until we have a raging furnace inside of us – our stomach churning into hard knots, chilling our bones.
Each time we review the offense, we feel more victimized, more persecuted, and our desire for revenge gets 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 the anger. You have been vilified. You have every right to be angry. You have every right for revenge.
The problem with 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.
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 have been replaced with settling of scores; our grievances turning hard and rigid inside of us until all we taste is bitterness and we become embittered and unhappy.
What someone has done to you – you are now doing to yourself.
Words have physical responses within our bodies.
When the shock first hit you, you felt like someone had punched you in the stomach. As you repeat the events, the words continue to punch you in the gut, keeping you in a state of turmoil and high stress.
Whenever you “gear up” for a battle in your mind, you are gearing up 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. You have gone from stress to dis-stress.
There is a reason why Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.
But science also tells us that if we hang onto and nurse our grievances and resentments, we are putting a slow death sentence on ourselves. (See Forgiveness: A Gift we Give Ourselves). It is not so we become self-righteous. It is to keep us from destroying ourselves. Retribution and revenge are not seeking justice. It just continues a cycle of unhappiness and bitterness with no end.
How to move past resentment in constructive ways
- Acknowledge that you have been wronged. Acknowledge that you are angry. Accept that it has happened.
- Ask: I have been hurt; but do I want to continue hurting myself?
- Ask: Am I willing to let go of the injustice and use my energy in more constructive ways?
We can choose what we do with all our emotional responses to circumstances. We can choose to nurse the wrongs, or we can choose to let go and focus on living a more constructive and loving life.
Let go of the past.
Let go of resentments.
Let go of all the ways you believe people have offended or wronged you.
Let go of anything that keeps you thinking in a negative way.
Come to terms or reconcile with the fact that everybody will say and do things that are hurtful. Sometimes it is intended – other times it isn’t.
If we choose to hang onto those betrayals, we are hurting ourselves.
Resolve, Forgive, Accept.
Resolve any disapproval you may have of yourself or others.
Forgive yourself and forgive others.
Accept the forgiveness that Christ has given us – truly accept and then let go.
Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone has made bad choices. Everyone has done things they wish they hadn’t done. Regurgitating the betrayal doesn’t help anyone.
Let go of having to be right while others are wrong.
Let go of your polarized positions.
Replace with respect for each person’s point of view and different opinions. You can maintain your position and still listen to why another believes and acts the way they do. Define why you believe and act the way you do. You are establishing and choosing to live the principals and values that will enhance your life regardless of what others do.
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