Monday, June 19, 2006

Pitfalls of revenge

I'm upset with my pastor.

I'm mad at him because he had the nerve to call me out during in his sermon yesterday. Well, he didn't exactly call me out specificially. But rather, the Lord put a message on his heart that hit me squarely on the head. It's funny. Most of the time -- when my pastor's messages don't really apply to me (about bad relationships, raising children, hell raisers in the church, alchoholics, etc.) -- it's fun for me to look around the sanctuary to see people nudge each other with their elbows or get uneasy when a point about them or someone they know is raised. This time, though, the spotlight was shining directly on me. It was almost like the entire sanctuary was cleared out; leaving only me -- nakedly exposed.

His sermon was about revenge. He spoke to the congregation (more like, he spoke to ME) about how dangerous it is for Christians to get ensnared by the traps of revenge. It's interesting that he spoke on this topic because; now that I think about it; many of the pains and hurts I've experienced are directly linked to the revengeful acts that I, myself, have committed.

Though revenge is a dangerous tool, its not all that uncommon for people to use it; including Christians. It's an age-old ritual that we perform to 'right' the things that we think are wrong; to restore a sense of justice to situations that we consider unfair. "An eye for an eye", as the Old Testament puts it. And even though Jesus died to lift the eye for an eye curse, I think that we still hold the concept true to our hearts. "If you do something hurtful to me, then -- dammit -- I'm going do something hurtful to you" is what we say. Sadly, we think that the best way for us to get over the pains inflicted on us by someone is for us to return the favor.

Now, to be clear; revenge is not always as evil, vindictive, and diabolical as it's painted out to be. Not everybody slashes tires, destroys vehicles (see image above), or causes any other physical or property damage. But, some methods of revenge (like the ones I use); though not violent or aggressive, are equally as damaging. My revengeful tactics, for instance, have a certain subtly and craftiness to them. In most cases, I don't think that the people to whom I'm being retaliatory even know what I'm up to. When it comes to revenge, I'm a creative, cool, and calculated customer (how's that for alliteration?).

But, after hearing my pastor's sermon, I'm starting to realize that traps I set in the name of revenge can (and usually do) backfire on me. I realize now that a lot of the hurt I've been feeling is a product of the traps that I set for other people. Rather than finding justice and fairness from my revenge, my situations have actually gotten far worse because of it. When people have 'wronged' me and I respond out of vengeance, I'm not making the situation any better. As Ghandi best put it, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

After my pastor had to indirectly put me on trial, I now understand that many of the pains that I deal with are of my own creating. That said, just as I create my pains, I also have the ability to destroy them.

I think that we, as Christians, can avoid falling into the traps that we set by not creating them in the first place. Sometimes, it's better (though not always so easy) to just let go of things. You're dumped by that girl/guy; move on. You lose that promotion to someone else; get over it. Instead of harboring on it (which then leads to us trying to exact our revenge), we should rely on God's grace and healing to help us through the situation(s) we face. God has promised to fight our battles for us if we allow Him to. We don't have to "get even" with people when we feel like we've been wronged. God has a way of evening the playing field for us; and it doesn't involve anybody getting hurt in the process. God's grace will beat out egging houses or keying cars any day.

So, my message/warning to you: If you feel like someone has done you wrong, go to God about it. Don't be so quick to pull out that shovel and start digging a ditch for that person. You might just fall in yourself...

- ACL

37 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Diane said...

I don't think I could have said it better myself, Andre. :-)

Honestly, revenge is not usually one of my downfalls, but I have plenty of others that are just as bad.

"....Vengeance is mine, saith the LORD, I will repay." Romans 12:19

If you really think about it, according to that verse, when you attempt to take revenge on somebody, you are usurping God's authority. Not a place I like to be, let me tell you! And as you stated, He can do a much better job of "vengeance" than I can. You only have to read a little in the Old Testament to see that, and how about Annanias and Sapphira in the New Testament? Dangerous ground to be on, for sure.

I'm thankful for the Good News that if we're wronged, we can find comfort and justice, and if we do wrong, we can find forgiveness and peace if we seek it from Him.

This one's a keeper, Andre. :-)

Not a Republican said...

Andre,

Your post is on point. The first thing I think about when someone hurts me is: "How can I get them back?" The best way to get them back is to get over it! We keep ourselves from some serious blessings when we refuse to get over situations. Also, take a look in the mirror and do some self checking. Was there ANYTHING that you contributed to the situation to make it the way it was? Ususally there is. If so, learn from it and try not to do it again. Here's the main thing: DON'T BE BITTER!
Bitterness will hold you back even more than the vengeful thoughts! Also try to remain Godly to whom the poeple that you've hurt. You may teach them a lesson.

Not a Republican said...

Sorry, I meant remain Godly to the people who've hurt you!

Andre said...

@ Diane: It's funny. Out of all the faults that I openly share with people, this is the one fault that I've never really come to grips with. Incidentally, this is the one that has caused me the most problem.

I'm slowly getting to the point where I try to allow God to handle my fights for me, rather than being too proactive on my own. My EGO ("Easing God Out") allows me to push God to the side and "do my own thing". The end results are the lamentations that I call my blog.

Thank you for reemphasizing the importance of allowing God to be God. You know, you and my pastor are one in the same. I guess that means that I'm upset at you also. I've got this thing about killing messengers...

@ Not a republican: "Get over it". How many times have wise people told me that?! How many times have I told myself that?! There's nothing like an anonymous internet buddy telling me that I need to get my act together.

Another painful lesson learned...

Thanks, to both of you, for your comments.

Diane said...

Please don't google my address.....Please don't google my address.....LOL ;-)

Andre said...

*Googling Diane's address*
*Googling Diane's address*

monique said...

I agree with all of you on your comments. I too have done some vengeful things, until I realized that the pain that I was experiencing didn't go away. It didn't make the situation any better, in fact, it only made things worse. Who are we to seek justice when we feel that we've been done wrong? Who are we to try to hurt someone (especially those we love) because we were hurt? I wanted to hurt my ex for the pain that he casued me, and I did, but I didn't feel like I won. As much as he hurt me, I still didn't feel like justice was served. I felt like I was being evil and vindictive. I felt bad for making him feel that pain. I believe that was the Christ in me. The best thing we can do is leave it in God's hand and try to learn from any mistakes we may have had.

ajbendaña said...

Great post Heat hater Andre...

Its so true... people who dwell on the injustices that have befallen them cant move on. If you sit back and analyze what happened and the whole situations calmly you will see that exactly what you said in your post. You will realize that its not worth your time. My approch is if someone does me wrong, i remeber that that person is not a person i want to expose myself too. This is not saying that i shut them out of my life but i just dont expose my self to them like i would someone who did no wrong to me. Point is you got to be weary of people becuase anyone is capable of anything, which is the bottom line.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

GEM :}
REVENGE I wonder if it is a sin to feel the urge for revenge but not act upon it ??????? The old saying is ,,,,it is a dish best served cold :{I believe that if you hold resentment or plot revenge on someone you are burning up life ,your life and you never get that time back , it can widdle its way into your heart and cause anger which corrodes the soul. It will eat you up . Unless a mortal sin is against you (then you have a heavy decision) you have to let things go , not for the other person but for you.It eats you up and consumes happiness , why waste it [happiness] life is a precious gift look for happiness not plotting revenge :}. It is so weird Andre, I dont get that vibe LOL from you , you seem so sweet but yet I have not wronged you , uh oh! *shivering in fear*, thinking if I have [strange music is playing ] hehehehe

gREENEYES

saved_sinner said...

I'm glad that you came to the realization of how bad revenge can be before you did something that you would live to regret. The devil has the ability to make things seems so right and so justifiable, while hiding the truth beyond the veil. But God's truth is revealed to us even when we don't see it.

Nice post, as always.

j. alex said...

Good points you raised. Revenge is a dangerous weapon that none of us is qualified to carry. Only God the Almighty can exact that type of moral authority.

Andre said...

@ Monique: Yikes. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear you ripped out a page from my autobiography and used it as your own. Our stories are nearly identical; as are the painful feelings we had as a result. Lesson learned. Thanks for your comments.

@ ajbendaña: Nice points you brought up. I think it's interesting to point out that disassociation (or, as you put it, not being exposed to certain people) has been one of my weapons of choice when dealing with people. The other weapon was revenge. Disassociation works a little TOO well; revenge doesn't work at all. Not for me, anyway...
Thanks for stopping by. And, I'm sorry that the Heat are gonna drop the last two games...

Andre said...

@ Greeny: You know, you raise an interesting question when you asked if the thought of revenge is just as sinful as the act. Initially, I would've been inclined to think that the thought was as bad as the sin. Jesus, for instance, said that a person who lustfully looked upon a person has already committed adultery in his heart. But, after further review, I think that the operative word in this statement was "lust"; the plotting behind the thought. I think that there's a huge difference between a thought/temptation that enters our minds and the sin itself; dwelling on that evil thought and developing the concept behind that thought which entered our minds.

For example: I find myself deep in financial debt. I think to myself: "Man! If I robbed a bank, I'd have enough money to get out of this debt." That's different than thinking "Man! If I robbed a bank, I'd have enough money to get out of this debt", while I'm also loading my gun, putting gas in getaway car, and trying on different masks.

I guess that the point I'm trying to make is that thoughts (i.e. 'thinking' about revenge) is only the devil whispering temptations in your ear. Using those thoughts to plot out certains actions is where the sin comes in; whether you perform the action itself or not. Hope that makes sense.

Thanks for the insight that you also provided in your comments. It challenged me to reexamine my approach to handling some things!

By the way, I'm a sweetheart. Not at all the evil, diabolical person bent on world domination. :)

@ saved_sinner: Nothing like somebody/bodies slapping you in the face to make you realize your role in certain situations. Thanks for your comments.

@ J. Alex: I think you're right. Too often, we miss out on the fact that God is the highest judge, jury, and executioner there is. When we try to step above Him, He's got a unique way of pulling us back down to reality. Thanks for your comments!

monique said...

If I am understanding you correctly, did you already seek revenge, or you were you about to?

Andre said...

Hi Monique,

Nope. I'm sorry to say that I've already carried out some of my actions; many of which have backfired and caused me more problems/hurt than I was dealing with in the first place.

Sigh! Lesson learned...

Andre said...

I assure you, I didn't do some sneaky, underhanded, and diabolical thing to cause suffering for another person. Likewise, I didn't sit around in my cold, dark cave plotting my revenge. Rather, my "revenge" was just my way to retaliate to being my being hurt by someone else. It didn't generate the type of justice I was hoping for...

joanne said...

Andre,

I was with you all the way through this post until you commented on the idea of thinking about a sin and actually doing the sin. I believe that every sin we commit, we commit twice: one time by our thoughts and again by our actions. That's was Jesus was referring to with the idea of adultery. This idea applies to EVER sin we commit.

Please don't take this the wrong way (you know I'm a fan), but you need to analyze the Scripture a lot more thoroughly before you make comments like that.

Andre said...

@ joanne: Thanks for your comments. I think that you should know by now that I welcome comments and observations that don't always align with what I think. Different people have different opinions.

In this situation, though, I'm sticking to my guns. I think there's a difference between the initial tempting thoughts and the thoughts that we use to implement the action. To put it another way, I think that our sins happen in a three step process:

(1) The devil whispers in your ear to do something. He tries to tempt you into doing it.

(2) You accept that temptation and start to think about carrying out the action and HOW you're going to do it.

(3) You commit the sin.

The second part is analagous to the "lust" that Jesus spoke of. The first part is just human nature.

As long as we're humans, we will face temptations. We are tempted to retaliate against others when they do us 'wrong'. We are tempted to eat that second or third helping of dinner. We are tempted to steal that teenie-weenie item at the store that NO ONE will ever notice, etc. But, once those simple thoughts materialize into thoughts outlining a COURSE OF ACTION...and then the action itself...that's where sin comes into play.

For example, I have a friend who is newly married. I've said before that if I was to ever have an affair, it would be with her. Does that mean that I've ACTUALLY thought about committing adultery with her? Of course not! Needless to say, I've also NEVER carried out any thoughts of doing so.

The point that I'm making is simple: the devil's job is to tempt us to the brink of madness. But, being deeply embedded in the God's word allows us to discern the right and wrong thoughts that enter our minds.

joanne said...

Andre, I think you just proved my point. When, regarding your friend, you said "I've said before that if I was to ever have an affair, it would be with her.", you were clearly indicating that you WOULD commit a sin deliberately.

I'm sorry, but you can't chalk that one up to the "temptation" of it all, when you've made a conscious effort to CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY of doing wrong.

natasha said...

Hi Andre,

This was a really good post. I admit that I've also done some pretty spiteful things to get back at somebody. Like what somebody else said, though, my payback made things a lot worse than they did to improve the situation.

Thanks for sharing this post. You're a really gifted writer.

cynthia said...

Ditto to what Natasha said. Another good post for Mr. Andre! :)

ajbendaña said...

HEAT ARE GONA WIN TODAY!!!!!!11111

Andre said...

@ Joanne: I see where you're going with your argument (implying that I made a conscious decision to "would deliberately" have an affair. But, I don't really know how that proved your point. The whole gist of my argument is that the initial temptations that we experience are not because of our own doing (sin), but rather because of the devil's temptation.

If you think about it, he even tempted Jesus. He wasn't successful at making Jesus do wrong, but He was tempted. The devil tried to prey on a guy who hasn't eaten for 40 days and tried to convince Him to make bread. Even though Jesus didn't buckle and give in, He -- at least -- was tempted to. Even whe Jesus had already made up in His mind not to follow the devil, His stomach STILL grumbled. His tastebuds STILL watered. Is Jesus wrong for getting tempted?

All I'm saying is that -- even when are mind is made up NOT to do wrong -- temptations still come at you.

I hope this clears things up a bit.

@ Natasha: Thanks for blessing me with your comments!

@ Cynthia: You too, M(r)s. Cynthia!

@ ajbendaña: If there is a God, the Heat won't win today! Just kiddin'. Sort of...

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Andre my GEM
I hope the devil does not whisper in your ear often!:} if he does, remember how strong you are and the fact you have the rest of your life to live with the decision you make today, make it a good one , it wont haunt you :}
You are a sweet heart and a wonderful soul, if not you would not have such draw towards God , you would be listening to all that whispering in your ear , And I dont mean me :} I am such a flirt , trying to get Diane Jealous again *WINK *
G ;-}

monique said...

Hey Andre, more questions for you...Does the people you were seeking revenge against have any idea what you've been concocting? Do you know if they have been affected directly or indirectly? Again, if I'm being too nosey, let me know :)

by the way, I like my nickname.

Andre said...

@ Greeny: As long as I have breath in my body, the devil is gonna come after me. That's what he does. It's his job and he does it well. I think that's why it's important to be deeply rooted in God and His ways. I'm trying to get there; but -- I'll admit -- I've fallen short a thousand times over.

By the way, I'm starting to get used to your "whispering". I could use a good flirt every now and then. :)

Uh oh. There's my carnal side exposing itself again...

@ Monique: I don't think the "plotees" have any idea what I was brewing. In fact, for a while, I don't even think that I was fully aware of what I was doing. Given that it's in our human nature to retaliate, I think I was just giving in to temptation much to easy.

But, to answer the question holistically: Yes. I agree increasingly aware of what I was doing and NO, they weren't aware of what I was doing. As I said before; when it comes to some things I'm pretty subtle.

By the way, what nickname did I give you?

KC said...

Damn, man! It sounds like you're in a real-life drama here. Revenge, adultery, bank robbery, plotting...

What's next?

Andre said...

KC, you really have a flare for the dramatic, don't you?

cassie said...

Hello Andre. I found your blog from my husband's listings. It's really well put together.

I found this post and some of your others to be very interesting, largely because you "expose" yourself so often. For what its worth, I commend you for picking up on your shortcomings and striving to improve them.

Very nice blog.

J. Alex said...

Andre, an important point was raised about how NOT to approach this type of situation. No matter what's going on, our version of revenge will never match up to the type of the intervention and justice that God can provide.

The minute that we take things into our own hands is when things go south.

cynthia said...

To sorta lighten the mood, I found a fun and interesting "Revenge test" on the Internet.

http://www.queendom.com/tests/minitests/fx/revenge.html

My score was 50. I'm curious to know how you scored.

ajbendaña said...

MAN ANDRE! i wish i had this much traffic on my blog... keep it up.

You know whats coming!

HEAT BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!2006 CHAMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WOOOOOOOOWHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

monique said...

I believe you called me nique...I think :)

By the way, you got a hot topic going on, aren't we the popular one :)

Andre said...

@ Cassie: Thank you for your kind words. I think that our walk with Christ is similar to one of those 12-step programs; the first part of the process is admitting that you have a problem. In my case, "exposing" myself is my way of admission. Besides that, it's hard to pontificate to others if I don't first recognize how dirty MY closet is...

@ J. Alex: I completely agree with you. We were not called into this world to play God. I'm glad that I'm not God...so I can't go around pretending to be Him. This includes not assuming His role of the CHIEF justice. Great comments!

@ Cynthia: Hey Cyn! I scored a 40. I guess that makes YOU the evil, vengeful one; not me. Ha!

@ ajbendaña: Maybe if you stop talking about those stupid 2006 NBA Champions, you'd get more traffic! :)

Stupid, unbeatable Heat...

@ Monique: Ohhh! I remember now. To tell the truth, I totally forgot about that. I'm glad you didn't mind the nickname. Sometimes, I get too lazy with names.

I wouldn't call myself "popular" or any of my posts "hot topics" (though there was a post about Jesus cussing that drew a lot of controversy). I just have opinions and make observations; and people chew me out because of them (*ahem* Diane/Greeny/Monique/Joanne/Not a Republican/Aldo). :)

As always, thanks for your comments.

ellena said...

Nice post, Andre. The message behind this post reaffirms why I'm so against the death penalty. While I'm not against punishment for things that we do wrong, to kill is something that only God has the right to do. Just because one evil person takes it upon himself to kill someone, doesn't give anyone else the right to kill in retaliation.

Anonymous said...

You have a really great blog. I enjoy your topics, especially the God-centered ones.

Andre said...

@ ellena: I'm actually against the death penalty for a few more reasons too. But, you nailed it. Thanks!

@ anonymous: Thanks for your kind words. Don't be a stranger; though I guess that -- in some ways -- you are...