My partner and I were having a discussion the other night about revenge, which then spilled over to our breakfast conversation the following morning about whether revenge was ever good. Not the war variety mind you where a group of individuals save a country from a dictatorship, but the personal variety where one individual feels as though they have to “get even” with another for their misdeeds. The discussion left me feeling as though I had unfinished business to resolve, if only “on paper”, as the topic seems to come up time and time again. It came up again when my partner viewed a revenge movie called “Repo Man” with his son as part of the father-son bonding experience. He summed up the viewing by saying that he survived the gore and gross parts and actually liked the story line… that is until it took an unexpected turn in the wrong direction with the “bad guy” ultimately “winning”. After that, he was sorely disappointed. That made me think: Is revenge ever good? Are there really any clear winners where revenge is concerned? Most of all… what happens when we’re exposed to a steady diet of it?
Is revenge ever good?
This can be tough to answer as in some respects the movie’s results mirror real life. By that I mean, we often go into a negative situation thinking we can handle it. Things remain fine as long as we find ourselves on the winning side. Yet, if we find our self on the wrong side of revenge, or discover the “win” is a shallow victory at best, then revenge doesn’t quite have the same feeling attached to it. While movies and TV have a way of clearly defining “good” and “evil”, these roles are less defined in real life. In fact, “good” and “evil” are often relative based on one’s vantage point and can quickly take on a new meaning when you start to see things from a different point of view. Case in point: prior to my current relationship, I had a seven-year relationship with a man who over time became many things to me. During our time together, “Mark” was a compassionate friend, a handyman, a lover, and a spiritual mentor. From all appearances, our relationship was a mutually satisfying one for a long time… that is until he moved on to someone new half his age. No longer feeling for me what I felt for him, our relationship eventually changed. Understandably, I not only felt hurt and angry about the change, but I also felt betrayed when he could not be honest with his current love about the level of intimacy we once shared. Soon my anger turned to revenge, with clearly defined roles: I was good to his evil. Back then, I justified everything I said and did; some of which I would never do or say under “normal” circumstances. I questioned his motives and integrity; did a background check on him to “clarify” known discrepancies; and discredited him in front of his love interest every chance I got. I justified it all by thinking he deserved all things bad. Like all revenge… the goal was to hurt him a thousand fold more than he hurt me. But was it really worth it?
Are there any clear winners?
The answer is no. While many never “get it”, I eventually did. Revenge requires a great deal of time and effort, with an enormous amount of energy expended on the negative rather than on doing something positive. Before you know it, it becomes a way of life, affecting everything you say and do and every life you touch. Imprisoned by anger, darkness starts to consume your entire life and your world falls apart. If that is not enough…while your adversary may have experienced some pain along the way, it never matches the anguish you feel. So if you’re looking for a victory, it will be a very shallow one at best.
So what happens when we’re exposed to a steady diet of revenge?
It varies from individual to individual. In my case, revenge was a constant reminder of a significant relationship lost. The pain lingered within my heart and soul for months, much like an open wound that refuses to heal. The sheer mention of his name brought tears to my eyes. As much as he hurt me, I had lost and could not reclaim what I once cherished… a deep connection with a man who loved and accepted me at a time when I really needed someone like him in my life.
So is there an alternative to revenge?
Yes. About 6 months after my relationship with “Mark” ended, the Lord presented me with an opportunity to redeem myself in the form of a jury summons. As an alternate juror, I had an opportunity to see my relationship with “Mark” play out in a courtroom setting, with the defendant and plaintiff playing young versions of “Mark” and myself. I saw and heard all the evidence and relived all the drama; this time as an objective observer. As I experienced it all, it felt like déjà vu; this time from a different vantage point, a new heart, and fresh pair of eyes. By the trial’s end, I found myself emotionally drained and totally invested in the situation and its outcome. Imagine my surprise when I learned as an alternate juror I was excused from duty just as the jury was to deliberate. What’s more, imagine how I felt when I learned I would never know the outcome as the case would be sealed due to the plaintiff’s age. Angry at first, I soon realized it was a blessing in disguise. No longer in control of the situation, justice would be served, not by me, but rather by a higher authority and without my knowledge or involvement. In that moment I finally let go of “Mark” along with all the mixed feelings of love and hate I had for him. And in the very same moment, my heart learned there was a positive alternative to revenge known as “forgiveness”; not for “Mark”, but for myself so I could move forward with my life and start the healing process.
While “Mark” is not yet ready to renew contact, I am hopeful he will be one day soon. When we do meet up again, I will be ready as I am thankful not only for what we once shared, but for what I learned as a result of our relationship’s end. From both, I learned about the possibility of new beginnings when both are ready to heal. What’s more, I will be able to share the following 7 tenets to Healing Relationships with him:
1. Forgive the person whether or not you ever speak to them again and before you ever invite them into the process. This gives you greater success in mending the relationship as forgiveness frees you from the anger that only gets in the way of fixing relationships.
2. Apologize with an unconditional apology, even if only written as an unsent letter. It doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong, or whether they hurt you, or you hurt them if you truly love this person and want them back in your life.
3. Listen, really listen to what the other person has to say without getting mad, cutting them off, or reminding them of what they did wrong.
4. Do not have any expectations of receiving an apology, as you may never get one. If the need for an apology is greater than your desire to have them back into your life, then the rift may never be resolved.
5. Share your feelings, explaining why you were hurt and/or angry only after completely listening to what your loved one has to say. Do so without making accusation such as “You did this or that”. Use feeling phrases such as “When you did this, it made me feel…”
6. Leave the door open as your loved one may not be ready to forgive. Rather than getting angry, tell them that you love them very much and want them back in your life.
7. Wait no matter how long it takes. Then do just that. Once some time has passed, try to contact them again. Finally, do not rush things, rather take whatever time is needed to make things right again.
Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.