Sometimes I think revenge is about as natural as childbirth. Everyone has felt it, I think even Gandhi must have had feelings of revenge against someone that had wronged him although he never in his right mind acted on them. But I think it’s our natural defensive instinct as humans to want to get revenge on someone that has hurt us. Maybe not everyone thinks (or acts out) physically or verbally hurting the other person, but at least wishes bad things upon that person.
When I got divorced a few years ago, I had many feelings of wanting revenge because my ex husband had been unfaithful to me. I tried my best to be adult about it even while people told me they would have run over him in their car. But one day I lost it, and while I won’t go into too much detail, I’ll just say it involved scissors and his clothing. And it was more creative than just cutting it up. As I was doing it, I knew I had gone a little bit crazy because of the sheer satisfaction I was getting out of it.
I think another aspect of the energy someone must create when they are angry enough to want to get revenge on someone is that many times their own happiness is determined by the happiness (or misery) of the person that hurt them. For me, for months I loved hearing stories of how miserable my ex was. Quickly I realized how dysfunctional this was and just avoided hearing about him all together. It wasn’t until I forgave him that I didn’t care about him or getting revenge anymore.
Which brings me to forgiveness. I have always struggled with this, as most people do I believe. I don't know how the Amish do it so easily, perhaps it's embedded in their DNA. Going through what I have been through has taught me many lessons, one of them was this: What happened to me had nothing to do with me directly. In other words, I wasn't cheated on because I was a bad person, or because I wasn't pretty enough or skinny enough (all thoughts that I assumed were true reasons). My marriage didn't end because I wasn't good at being married. Something painful happened to me, but not because of me. During my whole ordeal, the woman that my ex husband cheated on me with hated me and made sure I knew it. I couldn't understand why because I wasn't the one that had hurt her, he had. Regardless of her reasoning, I remember thinking of something that I had once heard about anger: Holding onto anger at someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. I felt bad for her for a while and then realized I was doing the same thing. It was then that I forgave my ex for hurting me. Being angry was serving me no purpose. It wasn't going to make it go away, make him right his wrongs, make him unhappy or do anything except hurt me more. So I let it go. And it really was easier than I expected. It was then that all the growth and lessons started to surface and I was able to move on.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com from Patricio Marin