There’s scientific evidence that in our brain, we find enjoyment when punishment is invoked on people who do bad things. And when you think about it, it’s how society works. On any other level of the animal kingdom, the choice is comprised of being eaten or defending oneself, and doing whatever you can do to protect your herd or yourself from attack. Being the winner isn’t about ego, it’s making sure you survive.
But humans, unlike lions, possess a range of emotions and rational thought, with a detailed division of labor that depends on cooperation and blending. I know you wouldn’t think this if you were an alien, landed on earth, and happened upon Real Housewives of Orange County or were at a Trump rally.
So there is no surprise that when someone upsets this natural balance and does something to hurt us, we want to equalize things. The thought of revenge permeates us, fills us with pleasure, makes us laugh, satisfies us. It’s like craving an Oreo. And how good does that tastes when it hits your tongue?
But if you eat an entire case of them, you will get sick. And your puke will be a pile of regurgitated sandwich cookies, which is gross.
Modern culture is filled with the concept of revenge. He had it coming. She needed to pay for the sins she committed. There’s Dirty Harry. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And who doesn’t love the scene where the woman burns the car of her husband who had an affair? The flames! The beautiful heels and walking away in a dress with her hair blowing in the wind!
That’s what I’m talking about, you cheat-ass punk. HAND ME AN OREO.
The movies that don’t end this way are flat, unnerving, foreign. Because getting away with bad things is not fair. It’s disordering the very nature of our society.
Lord knows I’ve been there. Someone very close to me hurt me terribly. I wanted to hurt them back. I wanted to make them pay for the wrongs they did. Most of all I thought it was unfair how they got away with it.
But then there’s our inner conscience, a holy spirit who delivers messages to us through our souls. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19
Well what’s the fun in that.
This goes against the very essence of us as humans. The independent side of us, the core of who we are as rational beings. We don’t want to turn over these things over to God when this person is still around, doing the same things, causing such pain, not even being sorry. So we cling to the hurt like an Albatross. We fantasize about revenge. We lambast them on social media. We dream that someday, we’ll have the opportunity to make it right. Maybe also we are a little bit focused on the blow-out and sepia lighting as we walk away from their burning mass of a BMW.
But it doesn’t work. We are left hungry for more, never full, needing to go farther and finding ourselves angry and stressed. It may work in the movies, but actors are playing a role, a fantasy where revenge equates to justice, where getting even brings deep and abiding satisfaction. When the director yells cut, they all scatter to their trailers, back to their cell phones and agents, unhappy with reviews and wondering if they will get the next gig.
This is not the training for our life. This is not what we should look at to bring us everlasting peace.
Look around you. Is there someone or some group you abhor? There has to be. This is a world full of hateful horrible things. Every time I turn around there’s a troll saying despicable things when people are just trying to express themselves. A white supremacy group. Someone who burns down religious centers. Maybe even your mother-in-law. I’m kidding. How bad could her casseroles be?
But think about these groups or people who hurt you. Put them squarely in front of your mind.
Now think of this:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:43-47
Take that despicable piece of crap of a person (unless it really is your mother-in-law and then I think we should HAVE COFFEE AND DISCUSS because you are having some concerning issues over this tuna noodle situation), and pray. Ask the Lord to take this anger and need for justice away from you and put this squarely on God’s shoulders.
“I’m sorry, but they raped me. They ruined my life. They killed my son. This I cannot do,” you might say.
I hear you. But I’m not asking for you to have lunch with them. I’m not asking for you to allow yourself to be hurt any more. It’s not that they deserve any of your mercy. You don’t have to show any. What I think God is asking of us is to trust that God can handle this. To trust that his vengeance will be more than we could ever do. What you are praying for is to release the bonds this person holds over you, to allow the anger to pass on, and to somehow find a way to forgive. And what God does with them? Have mercy on their souls. But if they just so happen to lose their job or get mauled by a bear or their beautiful new wife divorces them or their own bad deeds come back around to haunt them, I’m not saying you can’t smile JUST A LITTLE.
But you move forward and you can set that burden down. For the first time in your life you finally feel peace. Because obsessing about revenge only hurts you. The craving for an Oreo can turn into an obsession, and then you eat the entire box, which leads to an eating disorder and a feeling of never being enough, and when you turn around you are hospitalized because you realize you’ve been starving yourself from nourishment all these years.
Resist the urge to give in. Don’t allow yourself to slip into the waters of revenge and surround yourself with its desires. It’s the devil’s voice, telling you that it’s worth it.
It’s never worth it. Let God take vengeance on the wicked. It’s your job to show kindness to strangers, let your heart remain open, forgive and dust off that dirt from your shoes, and walk on into to the next town.
Eat the fruit of the tree that satisfies. Jesus talks of a natural sweetness that lingers, of a peace that endures, of fruit that is born from a tree rooted. Cleanse yourself of the toxins this new year that are preventing you from really moving forward. Eat a few Oreos and close the bag, realizing that you need nutrition that does not come from this. And for the love of all that’s made with bacon just smile on Sundays, push it around on your plate, and simply DO NOT EAT THE NASTY CASSEROLE.
Let it go this year. God can handle it. That being said, if there is any way for us girls to get together and just blow stuff up with no real agenda other than it’s fun and an excuse to get a full blow-out, I’m not ruling it out as a possibility.