‘I’ve learned that when you plan to get even with someone, you are only allowing the person who has hurt you to hurt you longer.’
A pretty amazing realization from a 13-year-old! Think of how our relationships, communities and world would change if everybody would figure this one out and take it to heart.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said, ‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’. This was the opening line in one of this season’s new shows, appropriately titled “Revenge”, which chronicles a young woman’s course of revenge on a family that took her father from her and leads to the destruction of many other lives.
I think we can all relate to the desire for revenge on some level. Though we may have never sought revenge on another person to any extreme level, we certainly have all had moments where we have gotten back at somebody for some perceived wrong. Many of them were likely trivial and we surely would have been better for not having responded in any way at all.
Some people really do seek out revenge in more planned and intentional ways. I can’t believe that their lives are any better for having done so. It seems to me that somebody that would seek revenge must also have some personality traits that will prevent them from letting go of things even after they have gotten that revenge; they will still be unable to let go and move on. They are people who can take holding a grudge to a whole new level.
And all that time invested in planning and executing the revenge is time that, as this 13-year-old observed, the focus of your anger continues to hurt you. During that time you are giving over your power to that other person because it is hard to be empowered positively in life when you are filled with anger and resentment. It flavors all other aspects of your life preventing you from enjoying the goodness that is likely also there.
When we obsess about the wrongs done to us, it affects our moods and behaviors. The wrongs are also likely to grow in magnitude as we devote more and more energy to thinking about them. Soon, something that was really a mole hill has truly turned into a mountain in our mind. What you focus your attention on will grow whether it is negative or positive!
Certainly there are times when true justice can feel somewhat satisfying; not revenge that you sought, but somebody getting what they deserved (at least in your mind). If we really think about it, this too is petty at some level. Who hasn’t thought, ‘Ha, that really came back to bite them in the backside!’ at some point in their lives. It’s our human desire for justice that drives this feeling.
But how much more peaceful has it been in your life when you have been able to truly forgive somebody. You step back, release the hurt and anger and let it go. You understand that everyone can make a mistake (even you) and that in forgiving them you are saying they mean more to you than this one thing.
Even when something seems unforgivable, try it. Even if the other person can’t let go of what drives them to hurt you, you don’t have to live with the negative feelings that their actions or words cause you. The circumstances that have been created are really very neutral, it is how we think of them and the feelings that we allow ourselves to associate with them that cause us difficulties.
Forgiveness…. It is a gift that you give to yourself.
On the journey with you…….Kathy
(Quote: Age 13- The Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)
Tune in to the Mary Jones Show on The Talk of Connecticut: WDRC Radio 1360 AM/102.9-3 FM on Thursday, May 24th at 1:30 to hear us chat about the challenges of the Sandwich Generation and caring for an aging parent!