Santee River; SC
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” - Confucius
“The weak cannot forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” - Ghandi
Life would be much more difficult if we could not remember things that have brought us pain in the past. Not remembering that a hot stove burns our hand would set us up for recurring pain. I am a particularly slow learner – I have burned my hands countless times on all manner of cooking appliances over the years. But in the aftermath of each burn, I usually just tend to the wound and move on. I do not spend my time plotting revenge on my stove with a sledge-hammer, nor do I try to devise ways to tip-toe through the house avoiding the kitchen. Neither have I set out on a campaign to wipe bees off the face of the earth as revenge for the times I have been stung. But when it comes to people that I perceive have harmed me in one way or another – well that is different matter entirely. I can nurse a grudge and plot revenge for days ..months…years…decades. Somehow it seems that there is some underlying spirit of competitiveness when I feel a person has wronged me – there is some inexplicable urge to “keep score” and “square accounts.” I do not fault the stove for being hot or the bee for stinging –that is what they do. And yet even though I know we are human and we all blunder many times through life, there is some higher standard that I feel I need to hold people to. Well, how does this work out?
First, be clear that harboring grudges is a completely different thing than holding others accountable, just as revenge is completely different things than allowing someone to suffer the consequences that result from their actions. And when someone does harm me, just as with the stove or the bee I have the option to let it pass entirely without making a scene. I also have the option to put a big red tally mark in my mental notebook under that person’s name to constantly reference in the future. I can amass my resources and call in favors in an attempt to wreak some sort of havoc on that person’s life. But holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting it to sicken the other person. It is only us that it poisons – most often the incident doesn’t even cross the mind of our “antagonist.” And as the quote says, seeking revenge is a boomerang that will unfailingly come back on us and deliver the same punishment we try to mete out. When we harbor anger and plot revenge we beat ourselves with the clubs we intended to use on our “adversary.” And making ourselves a “victim” causes far more suffering than the incident ever did. We have to ask ourselves: “How important is this that I am allowing it to poison my life? Why am I giving this person power over my thoughts and as a result missing the life I might be living this moment?” The answer is always the same. Forgiveness of others is the only path to our own freedom.
Happy Thursday !!
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