However good that might feel (adrenalin does give us a rush) it is only temporary. It will spiral downward, as it’s the “eye for an eye” behavior which causes the whole world to be blind, as Gandhi remarked.
And it takes us into a “hellish” place to live!
Nowhere does the slogan “short term gain, long term loss” apply more directly than when we act or think in a revengeful, getting even type of behavior.
The adrenalin high might feel good at first, but whatever we send out comes back and that isn’t going to feel good!
Sending out harmful thoughts or acting in ways that punish bring about alienation and loneliness, which is a good description of hell.
We can choose our thoughts and actions, but we can’t choose their consequences. This is our karma.
Karma is always at work returning to us just what we send out.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
“Suppose someone has made you suffer. You think of that person as being very cruel. They’ve inflicted a lot of suffering on you, your family, your country. This has made you suffer so much that you want revenge. You want that person or group of people to suffer so you can get relief. You want to punish them. But your hatred and anger and the desire for revenge are a kind of fire that continues to burn your body and your mind, and you are in hell.”
Breathe, You are Alive
He goes on to say that hell is in the here and now, as is the kingdom of God.
Hell and heaven are not geographical locations. Both are states of mind, present within us, depending on which train of thought we ride.
Hell is a state of mind that seeks to punish and harm. And like a fire within us, it burns, causing our cells to eventually “burn out” in some unhealthy way.
Heaven is a state of mind in which everyone is included in ways that are respectful and filled with understanding. We may not want to live with someone, but neither do we wish them harm, for we know they have their own “hell” to work with.
People may be excluded from our life when necessary, but in wisdom we throw no one out of our heart. For this brings us into a place of joy and happiness, which is a good description of heaven.
Healthy boundaries eliminate the temptation to feel revengeful or want to punish anyone. Healthy boundaries give us a way to talk through situations, restoring understanding and peace. We learn this art through the practice of Non-violent communication. Marshall Rosenberg’s book on this subject is a worthwhile manual. (See book list on my website)
If physical damage has been done, the person committing the act may need to live in a secluded place where he or she can’t harm others. We have a legal system to help in these cases.
But we need to be clear that when we feel revengeful we are inviting hellish states of mind. There is no peace in hell.
Every thought, every action stirs the waters of life. Ripples go out. What we send out will come back to us.
As St. Paul said, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked.” Gal. 6:7
Thus we need to find healthy ways to express anger and sadness that do not project onto others, but find a place of healing and understanding within our hearts.
Fritz Perl, the father of Gestalt psychology, taught the empty chair method. In a private place we bring two chairs together facing each other. We sit in one.
Then in our mind, mentally, we ask the person we are angry or upset with to sit opposite us. We see them and feel their presence.
And now we speak to them.
We speak for five full minutes (put on a timer) saying all that we want to say straight from our heart, our solar plexus without censoring.
Then we change chairs and literally take on the persona of the other. We step right into their shoes. This person speaks back to us, saying whatever is on his/her mind for five full minutes.
We speak spontaneously, not knowing what might come forth. We trust the process and let ourselves be surprised.
If we feel we are making it up, well, we are. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. What’s important is that it comes from a place of truth within us, from our view of the situation. This is the “small” truth, not Truth with a capital T.
No one knows “The Truth.” We only know our interpretation, our experience of life. As we express what is within our heart authentically, more will come.
It’s OK to repeat ourselves if necessary to fill the five minute periods. But each person needs to have the full time to say what has been unsaid, kept locked within.
Going back and forth, we speak until there is a sense of relief; something within us has opened and there is a feeling of spaciousness. We can always continue the process later.
At the conclusions of these dialogues I have felt closer to the other. The relationship feels more livable as I open to the deeper truths within myself and the other.
Best of all, the desire for revenge is gone, for the opposite viewpoints have been heard and accepted. Through the hearing something new has emerged.
It is only the mystery of love that can unite opposites.
If you don’t have a private place in which to do this work, the same activity can take place in your journal.
What is important is to allow ourselves to hear the suffering that has been going on inside the heart and mind of each person. For not one of us is an island. We are all connected, and will only find happiness by including the other in our heart.
As this holy work of uniting opposites is done, understanding gradually unfolds.
The burning fire of anger and revenge has turned into a warm glow, bringing comfort and peace.