From Hurt to Healing: Exploring Paths Beyond the Urge for Revenge

I get it – the need to take revenge on someone who you feel hurt you, helping you feel at least a little bit empowered and less helpless. Feels so sweet when you do it. But not for long.

In tragic tales and classic novels, often a good person is wronged and takes revenge. Later on, they discover that the person they took their revenge on wasn’t as deserving as they felt. They end up feeling remorse, and are unable to move on. The tale ends in tragedy – of the person they hurt and of themselves. Tales like Oedipus come to mind: king of Thebes, who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. In this story, it was his mother who could not live with it when she discovered her son’s true identity, and ended her life.

A modern version might be someone accused of sexual abuse or murder, who ends up in jail for many years, until the real perpetrator is somehow found. The system and family who made sure the first person suffered then must deal with the remorse of what they participated in.

On a more day-to-day level is when we have convinced ourselves that someone in our community is bad. This feeling helps us justify anything hurtful we might do to that person, and yet our feelings are  too often based on hearsay or plain old projection, and we never truly check it out. Instead we treat that person as guilty, possibly driving them away. Later on, we discover they weren’t as bad as we’d imagined, but it’s too late to mend what we’ve done.

Most of us have done this to someone else, ending up carrying that guilt and remorse with us for years. This is a burden that can lead to addiction as a way of numbing that feeling, and as a result, is a central theme of 12-step programs – working to root out that resentment and make amends.

Making amends is essential if you want to rid yourself of remorse. It can free your spirit and help you truly move on.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Open up to the notion that everyone is fallible, including you and the person you are judging. It’s rare that the person we’re mad at is as bad as we make them out to be. In fact, it may be that what we are judging is something we ourselves have that we aren’t seeing;
  2. List out everyone you resent, and why – that helps identify those people we judge as somehow bad and worthy of revenge;
  3. With honesty, look at how you might have hurt that person. This takes courage and a commitment to heal your wounds;
  4. Decide the best way open to you to make amends to that person. It may be that you can’t do so without causing more harm, or the person can’t be found. If so, then pay it forward.

It may be that you truly feel you were wronged, and that taking revenge is justified. The thing is that even if that’s true, by taking revenge, you will become – at least to some extent – like the person who wronged you.

Taking revenge is only sweet for a brief moment. You are worth more than that.

 

Quote of the Week

An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

 

I spent 18 years plotting revenge

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