“Never take your own revenge…”
The man who penned these words, Paul the Apostle, was writing to a group of people who were living in a city and world that was hostile to their beliefs and values and they often found themselves the victims of unjust treatment.
When we are treated unfairly, it is natural for us to feel angry and revengeful. Thoughts of “payback” arise within us, and we imagine scenarios where we are the one in control and we give the culprit “what he or she deserves.”
Well, at least I do!
Years ago, I read the story of a woman who discovered her husband, a British Lord, was having an affair. Her first act of revenge was to daub his expensive European car in house paint! She then went from house to house on the estate where they lived and deposited bottles of champagne worth one thousand pounds on every doorstep – all taken from his private cellar.
“I suppose it was a bit over the top,” she said, “but it gave me a great sense of resilience!”
There is a significant problem with revenge though. Initially you may feel good because you have given the person “their just desserts” but it is highly questionable your feeling of being justified will last for long.
Most people, when they have wronged or hurt another person have a deep sense within them that they need to be punished for what they have done. When they are punished or paid back, it relieves their guilt and makes them feel better about themselves.
Ironically then, it seems that when you take your anger out on the wrongdoer and exact your revenge, you are doing them a favour because they now feel they have “paid” for what they did, and the ledger is balanced!
There is another problem: where and when does “payback” stop?
Back in 2017, Angelo Musitana was gunned down in the driveway of his home in suburban Canada. According to his neighbours, he was just a family man with a wife and three children, so they were shocked to learn that he had once been a member of the most powerful Canadian Mafia family – the Rizzuto clan.
Speaking on Musitana’s death, one expert suggested his murder had been 20 years in the making. In 1997, Musitano was part of a plan which resulted in the execution of two powerful crime bosses in Ontario. Twenty years later, Musitano may have left his past behind and was now living a quiet life, but the family of the dead bosses had never forgotten, and so they gunned him down in cold blood.
The commentator went on to say that “In the Mafia, there is no statute of limitations on revenge”, often leading to more bloodshed.
The same can be said for our own relationships. They may not end in bloodshed, but the fires of anger, bitterness, and rage are continually stoked by those who insist on maintaining a futile cycle of payback.
There is a better way.
“Never pay back evil for evil…”
Has your spouse betrayed you and you’re contemplating having a “revenge affair?” Don’t do it! As hard as it is, with God’s help, choose the path of forgiveness and seek to heal what is broken in your marriage.
“Bless and curse not…”
Has a friend gossiped or lied about you to others? Don’t give in to the temptation to slander them back – bless them instead! To pray a blessing for them does not mean you are asking God to bless their behaviour or words – it simply means to ask God to show them His mercy and love.
None of this is easy but living differently never is. It will take a lifetime commitment to growth and seeking God’s help, but the “payback” from Him is a life of peace, freedom, grace, and resilience.●
“Never take your own revenge…”