When someone has offended or hurt us, the impulse to strike back can be overpowering. An eye for an eye, right?
As tempting as it may seem in the heat of the moment, revenge is not a sustainable or healthy solution to our emotional wounds. It’s actually rather the contrary!
Here’s why “tit for tat” is not the answer when it comes to healing and moving on.
It’s natural to want payback
Let’s get one thing clear: it’s totally normal to get the urge to take revenge. When we experience hurt or betrayal, a surge of anger, resentment, and sense of injustice can consume us.
Revenge can seem like a way to regain control and balance the scales. It promises a momentary satisfaction, a fleeting sense of power, and the illusion of closure.
But while it may appear like the perfect solution to find closure, retaliation can actually have quite the opposite effect.
Revenge perpetuates the cycle of pain
Revenge doesn’t offer closure. Seeking revenge often leads to a back-and-forth retaliation, causing a never-ending loop of suffering.
It's like pouring fuel on the fire of our emotional distress, making it impossible to break free from the negative emotions that bind us.
Revenge doesn't bring true satisfaction
Contrary to the popular belief that revenge will bring satisfaction, it often leaves us feeling emptier and more discontented than before. Has hurting someone back ever made you feel better about yourself?
The initial rush of triumph is quickly replaced by guilt, remorse, and the realization that hurting someone else doesn't heal our own wounds.
Revenge may momentarily mask our pain, but it does nothing to address the root causes of our suffering.
The negative effects of revenge on mental wellbeing
Revenge can have significant and detrimental effects on our mental wellbeing, not only for the person seeking revenge but also for those who become entangled in this vicious cycle.
Here are some of the key ways in which seeking revenge can impact your wellbeing:
Increased stress and anxiety: Constantly dwelling on the desire for revenge and planning vindictive actions can keep the stress response activated.
Heightened anger and resentment: Seeking revenge can intensify feelings of anger and resentment instead of providing relief.
Negative self-image: Engaging in vengeful actions can erode one's self-esteem and self-worth through guilt and shame.
Isolation: Seeking revenge can isolate individuals from their support networks. Friends and family may distance themselves, leading to increased feelings of loneliness.
Obsessive thoughts: The preoccupation with settling scores can hinder one's ability to focus on other aspects of life, including work, relationships, and personal growth.
Loss of empathy: This fixation can start to desensitize you to the feelings of others. Over time, this can make it harder to build and maintain healthy relationships.
Forgiveness over vengeance
Let's shift our focus to a more constructive and healing approach: forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about excusing or condoning the actions of those who have hurt us.
Instead, it's a powerful act of self-compassion and self-preservation, if you feel ready and willing to explore it.
Forgiveness helps you move forward
When we forgive, we release ourselves from the emotional bond that ties us to the person who hurt us. Holding onto anger keeps us connected to the past, whereas forgiveness allows us to move forward with a lighter heart.
Again, forgiving doesn't mean forgetting or ignoring the pain; it means choosing to let go of its grip on our lives. Have you ever let resentment consume you and distract you from achieving your goals? Wouldn't it be better to use that energy to pursue them?
Forgiveness gives you control
Choosing forgiveness puts the power back in your hands, allowing you to regain control over your emotions and responses.
When you forgive, you decide not to let the actions of others dictate your emotional state. This inner strength is far more satisfying and enduring than the fleeting satisfaction retaliation may offer.
Forgiveness powers your resilience
Forgiveness requires us to confront our own vulnerabilities and find the strength to move beyond our pain. Through forgiveness, we become more resilient, compassionate, and empathetic with others.
Forgiveness is self-care
A recent Harvard study found a link between forgiveness and improved mental health. It reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, lowers stress levels, and enhances overall psychological wellbeing.
Choosing forgiveness is an act of self-care that can significantly contribute to your mental and emotional health. Why deprive yourself of an opportunity to heal?
Finding the strength to forgive
Forgiveness is not a one-size-fits-all process, and it's important to acknowledge that it can be challenging. You might not be ready or willing to forgive, and that’s okay.
But if you’re ready to embark on this journey, here are some steps to guide you:
Acknowledge how you feel
How do you feel? Start by acknowledging your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them without judgment. It's essential to validate your pain before you can begin to let it go.
Explore the other’s perspective
Try to understand the perspective of the person who hurt you. This doesn't mean condoning their actions but gaining insight into their motivations and circumstances. It’s the most challenging stage of forgiveness but it can help you distance yourself from what happened.
Forgiveness doesn't require you to (re)establish a relationship with the person who hurt you. Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of the healing process.
Remember, forgiveness is about your own will to let go and move on. You’re in control of how much you’re ready to give. You don’t owe the other person anything!
Be kind to yourself
Healing takes time, and you might find it really difficult to forgive. And that’s okay!
Don’t rush yourself – self-compassion is a key element of forgiveness. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you extend to others.
Forgiveness can be a challenging journey, and seeking support from friends, family, or a counselor can be immensely helpful.
Nurture these relationships that make you feel stronger and happier, and that empower you to move forward. You’re not alone!
In the face of hurt and betrayal, “settling scores” may initially appear as an attractive option. Yet, revenge only perpetuates the cycle of pain and ultimately leaves us feeling unsatisfied.
Choosing forgiveness, on the other hand, is an act of self-preservation and a testament to our strength and resilience as human beings. Are you ready to give forgiveness a chance?