I was in discussion with someone, recently, and the topic of vengeance came up with this gal being quite desirable in pursuing acts of vengeance against her ex. Of course, I can completely identify with this, but I was trying to discuss this on a rational basis with her and she was having NONE of it. She had actually mapped out a plan to get her ex fired from his job and so forth, which made me start thinking about vengeance in more detail.
Who among us has not experienced a betrayal or crime that seemed to beg for vengeance? Perhaps, the perpetrator was a spouse that committed adultery, or a friend that coerced us out of money, or a total stranger that committed a crime against us. In any event, each one of us has experienced something that caused us to consider vengeance – to “get back” at the person or “out” them to the public or their new targets. So, if someone has done us wrong, then what is the wisdom of leaving the business of vengeance to “God?”
Whether we are devout Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics, or atheists, the wisdom of this single quote is priceless because it gives us permission to “let it go,” whatever it is. Why is this considered “wisdom,” when it takes away my right to pay someone out for their sins against me?
Well…there are a number of reasons that this concept is beneficial to survivors of betrayal and crime. The first and most important reason is that it involves our own self-worth, self-confidence, and personal emotional health. Fleeting thoughts of vengeance are 100% normal and are not to be confused with constant rumination, and/or acting-out on these thoughts. Ruminating about vengeance quickly becomes a disease for survivors because it takes away the focus of recovery and healing ourselves, and places it upon an animal that could not care any less about the damages that they’ve caused – more to the point, it’s a waste of time and energy. Acting-out on our thoughts of vengeance is just about an emotionally and spiritually fatal decision for our souls. We don’t need to see it through, particularly if the person has managed to float outside of the Law and will likely never even face charges.
How can thoughts of vengeance become a disease? It consumes every waking moment of a survivor’s life. Whereas the survivor was once productive, after their experience(s) they are so consumed with the idea of vengeance that their literal participation in Life is no longer a priority or even desire. The only desire is to pay back the perpetrator. This leads to bitterness and rage, particularly if (again) there isn’t any legal remedy for what was done. Even in cases where legal remedy does exist, it will never be enough of a punishment if the rumination continues. It interferes with every aspect of daily living, down to paying bills, interacting with friends and family, and communicating with our closest friends and loved ones. It is a dreadful example for children to observe and can cause extreme anxiety for everyone involved.
Acting out on vengeance will not cause whatever happened to “un-happen.” The past cannot ever be changed, and acting-out on vengeance doesn’t correct the past, nor does it create a consequence for the perpetrator. It only puts us on the same level as the offenders because our own desires (not needs) are placed above everything else, including providing an example of courage, strength, and resilience for our wounded selves, and others.
Finally, vengeance can turn a survivor into a perpetrator, themselves, if the idea is entertained to the point where acting-out seems reasonable. Following the perpetrator or their new targets, or contacting their place of employment, etc., sets the survivor up for true and righteous legal consequences. Once the shock has worn off and the grieving has begun, the healthiest focus is recovering and healing our own selves.
No matter what anyone’s personal system of beliefs might be, leave the balance of the Universe to whatever enforces it. The Universe abhors a vacuum, and it must also function in a manner of balance that we mortal human beings simply cannot fathom. No, it’s not always “fair,” but neither is it “fair” for one galaxy to collide with another destroying millions of stars and planetary systems as a result of the collision. But, what is a core truth is that all things are part of the balance – the good, the bad, and the seemingly benign or neutral. So, if I interfere with whatever works the Universal balance, then I’m going to experience the alignment of balance, myself.
Maybe this sounds a little “new age?” Well, it’s not meant to. It’s just what is, and working on releasing thoughts of vengeance is a challenge, to be sure, particularly if we are deeply hurt. The key is to process the emotions – the hurt, the betrayal, the anger, the disappointment, the sadness, etc – and open that space up for positive energies to fill it in. Once this work has begun, “acceptance” can occur on a spontaneous level – “acceptance” is that point when I have examined all of the facts and acknowledge that I cannot negotiate, bargain, beg, barter, plead, pray, demand, or tantrum a different set of facts. I am not under any obligation to “like” the set of facts – there is no such requirement. But, “acceptance” relieves me of the imagined burden of turning back the hands of time and reinventing a new and more pleasant outcome. It’s impossible, and I can let go of that need for control and live in the present – the here-and-now, instead of the future that’s surrounded by vengeance and anger.