I left thinking there is something wired into the hard drive of every human which draws us to vengeance. Ben reminded us of revenge-based-movies like Taken, Law Abiding Citizen, and Edge of Darkness. Add to that the ultimate Veng-O-Meter Steven Segal and many of the video games and we get vivid pictures of justice turned personal. It’s aggressive and intense. Just as intense is the passive-aggressive approach to taking revenge: sarcasm (scud missiles meant to penetrate deep), gossip, distance, and a host of other means used to inflict collateral damage under the surface.
Vengeance can bring out the worst in humanity and is reflected in the ugliness, mean-spiritedness, and down-right evilness of our attitude and behavior. Revenge may seem sweet but the after-taste is more bitter than one can imagine.
It makes sense when the itinerate rabbi named Jesus was asked how to pray he answered, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive the transgressions of others.” He knew how prone we are to see forgiveness as spy-ware which could yield untold damage to our hard drive meant for revenge. We don’t want any distraction when we are hell-bent on pay back. It’s like, “Talk to me later, I’m on a mission and I won’t stop until I get what I want.” That’s it, isn’t it? Revenge is what I want. I want to be the one to dispense what I believe is proper justice given whatever circumstance I encounter and doweled out at the level I see commensurate with the wrong:
- To the guy who cuts me off in traffic I want to ram him, but I’ll settle for giving him the finger.
- To the person who I think is gunning for me at work I want to let him know what pay back feels like, but I’ll settle for sarcastic bursts in front of her friends.
- To the person who decides to trash me I want to unload the dump truck of crap on him, but I’ll settle for letting toxic venom leak from me whenever his name comes up.
We may be guided by some civility but vengeance is still brutal. Exact it and be done!
But…then I remember the divine wisdom burned into me since my youth, “Don’t take revenge!” coupled with “Forgive us as…” and I stop in my self-indignant tracks. I’m faced with penetrating questions like: What type of person do you really want to be? How do you want people to treat you when you screw up? What kind of spirit do you want to have in your relationships?
I regularly need to reboot my hard drive of vengeance: installing truth, restarting, and let my spirit be filled with something other than my warped idea of justice. When I do this, the right type of response becomes evident: I am more patient, I let go of wrongs quicker, I empathize, I create healthy boundaries, I even forgive – because I realize that forgiveness is about my spirit and receiving divine forgiveness. I’m grateful for this transformation, as slow as it may be.