I recently read an article, “The Unofficial Guide to Being a Man.” Like many of the trending articles today, it was a list of tips that (in this case) help one become more of a man. It included such advice as, “Always tip more than you should” and “Time is too short to do your own laundry.”
The article had some good practical advice and…some not so good advice.
An interesting tip was, “Revenge is a good way to get over anger.” Hmm. It’s fascinating to think about all the men (and women) who might read this article and follow its recommendation.
It’s scary to think about what the world might look like if everyone followed this recommendation.
The intriguing part of it is that it’s tempting. It is tempting to want to “get someone back.” It’s tempting to desire to make someone pay for his or her mistakes against you. It’s tempting because we think it will make us feel better.
But reality proves that this is false.
Years ago, I saw the movie, “The Count of Monte Cristo
.” I loved it! The Count exacts his revenge and walks away at the end a happy man.
Then I read the book, and I hated it. Without giving too much away, bitterness lasts longer than expected. I hated the book, but it was far more realistic. Revenge doesn’t make us feel better, it doesn’t even bring finality to any pain. When it plays out, it begs the question, “Now what?”
In fact, a study conducted
in May of 2008, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
(Vol. 95, No. 6) found that while the goal of revenge is to bring closure or relief, it does the exact opposite. According to the study:
“When we don’t get revenge, we’re able to trivialize the event. We tell ourselves that because we didn’t act on our vengeful feelings, it wasn’t a big deal, so it’s easier to forget it and move on. But when we do get revenge, we can no longer trivialize the situation. Instead, we think about it. A lot.”
There is a reason why, in Matthew 6:14-15
, Christ tells us to forgive, saying, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” It brings us peace. Furthermore, it’s two fold. How many of us have not sinned against another person or God? How many of us do not desire forgiveness?
Healing comes with forgiveness. It’s how St. Dionysius
was able find peace helping the one who murdered his brother.
It is for that reason that the Church sets aside one Sunday, the day before Lent starts to ask for and grant forgiveness. It brings peace to our souls and our relationships.
If you want a real challenge, if you want to be a better man or woman, call someone who you’ve had a strained relationship with and ask for forgiveness. While revenge can be tempting and even easy, asking for forgiveness takes humility and bravery. Sometimes what makes it even more difficult is that person may have offended you as well. Do it anyway. Asking for forgiveness may come as a shock to that person and it may be the necessary step to healing a relationship of bitterness and ill will.
Has someone wronged you? Forgive without being asked to. In Challenges of Orthodox Thought and Life, Hieromonk Calinic Berger explains that, “The Hymns of Holy Week refer to forgiveness as ‘divine.’”
While asking for forgiveness is brave, granting it is God-like. Christ himself, hanging upon the cross grants forgiveness to those who are killing him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). This is part of the journey he took to the resurrection just three days later. It is also part of the journey we take toward Pascha.
Psychologists and mental health professionals agree
that forgiveness is necessary for a healthy mental state and happiness. It is so often the case that people go years before reconciling, only to wonder, “Why did we ever live with all that pain for so long.” So don’t waste any time holding grudges or taking vengeance. This Sunday, “The Church gives us a gift and a challenge: a gift because it is an opportunity to be renewed by unburdening our hearts and healing our relationships, and a challenge, because humbling ourselves and asking forgiveness is never easy. “ (Berger, 2011)
Perhaps the article I read had a typo. Maybe it meant to say, “Revenge is NOT a good way to get over anger,” because forgiveness is.