I love a pithy phrase and an inspirational quote. Words move me, and I know that they move others. I use words to understand the world around me, to share my thoughts, and to move and persuade others. Words are powerful.
But, I think that, far too often, we are apt to follow the advice of what seem like great ideas and motivating words, without critically considering what they mean. And that, I don’t like. If we do really sit down and think about what these words mean, we might actually begin to question the wisdom and authority behind them.
When my ex- and now deceased ex-husband walked out on my and our family in 2014, I was shocked. Our marriage had been a mess for years, so I wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t happy in our relationship. I hadn’t been for years. So his sudden departure did not break my heart in the sense of losing a loving partner. What it did was break the hearts of our children, and that broke my heart. At the time and still now, I think this is a terrible way to end a relationship.
For quite some time, I was quite angry, in the victimized sense of the word. I felt that his “abandonment of the marital household,” as the attorneys would phrase it, was something that had been done to me/us, and it pissed me off, to be quite frank. Because of this, many friends would suggest that I should seek revenge by having the best possible life, by being happy. In some sense, my happiness would be my best weapon.
And for a short time in my life, I struck out on this happiness and success quest. I will show him, I would think to myself. I will be happy, successful, in love, and all shiny and perfect and rainbows and unicorns. But after a while, I was like, wait a minute. This is some bullshit. Because if I was living my life to “show him,” as a way of having any sort of “revenge,” then who was I living my life for?
On some level, revenge feels great. Someone does you wrong, so you do something equally as wrong or worse or clever and you get him or her “back.” An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. One can sit and work for days trying to hatch the perfect plan to achieve the greatest level of success, which, in most cases, means the other person experiencing pain, discomfort, anguish, heartache, injury, or some other negative experience. Nothing good.
And so, my thought is that nothing good can be gained from revenge, not even by the avenger, because though it might feel good to “hurt” a person, who has wronged us, that feeling never lasts for long, in my experience. Hurting others just doesn’t feel good. And plotting and planning ways to do so just doesn’t seem to be mentally healthy. So, using one’s success and one’s own happiness as recent seems a sure recipe for a miserable existence. I don’t think being happy or successful should be sought after as revenge, as George Herbert suggest. Who is George Herbert? From what I can gather, he is a 16th century Welsh-born poet to whom this advise or these words are attributed. And that is all I know about him.
Seeking revenge requires one to exert one’s energy externally and in a negative way. If one has already been injured, doing this cannot lead to healing in any way. So what is the best revenge? Here’s the thing, I don’t think revenge is what one should be seeking, at all. Perhaps ever. I think revenge is a victim’s response to an injury, and I personally don’t think we do well making decisions in the victim-mode. I think all such interactions and experiences, negative/horrible/traumatic experiences, are opportunities to learn great and powerful lessons. When we learn lessons, we can live better lives. Perhaps we can help others live better lives too, if we are able and willing to share our experiences and lessons.
I don’t welcome tragedy or hardship, but it happens. It happens often. Life is filled with amazing joy and wonder and miracles, only because the reverse exists. But wisdom doesn’t come from revenge. Wisdom comes from learning, from using one’s life as a series of lessons.