Saturday, December 29, 2018
Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, December 22, 2018 - The Glitter Bomb
I get it, believe me. Revenge is so sweet. There’s something about vengeance and retribution that really satisfies us in a way that seems even larger than the event which started it. I’ve taken vengeance myself. Sometimes I’ve even regretted it.
Upon the recommendation of my husband, I recently watched a YouTube video called “Package Thief vs. Glitter Bomb Trap.” In it, NASA engineer Mark Rober decided to share a liberal amount of holiday sparkle and a bit of creative aromatherapy (aka glitter bomb and fart spray) with those who chose to steal packages from his front porch. He also rigged it to video record the various thieves’ reactions. The video is nine minutes and forty seconds of retaliatory bliss.
Rober’s clip provides us with one of the most satisfying forms of revenge: vicarious. Seeing someone else dishing out the just deserts on behalf of underdogs everywhere makes us feel a little less alone in our own victimization. We cheer the hero for utterly destroying the evil villain. In movies, they so often don’t just get punished, the villains usually die. Spectacularly so.
According to my principles, I’m not supposed to like this. Admittedly, I don’t get a giant amount of happiness from seeing people get what’s coming to them, but I don’t get a small amount either. I’m somewhere in the middle. You could definitely say that it bothers me a little that it only bothers me a little.
The definition of revenge is to inflict injury in return for something inflicted upon us or someone we love as a grief response. We’re trying, in our own misguided way, to make ourselves feel better. Overall, however, revenge is definitely not in our best interest. A Psychology Today article on the subject reminded me of one of the best sayings by Confucius, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
By and large, the only events in my life that I truly regret are times when I sought to even a score. Usually it was my rage that masked my good judgement. I literally could not see clearly. I didn’t have an agreed-upon escape plan. That’s why we need a few guiding principles we agree to practice while we are not under stress so we remember more often to practice them when we are. Decide in advance―while you’re calm―how you want to behave on that future day when you’re inevitably going to become angry. Then follow your own advice. Trust the decisions made by your rational self so that you may draw upon them when enraged and confused. This is the path of self-awareness. You first have to accept that you will not always be calm and rational, so make a plan in advance for how you would like to act and then do it when the time comes.
The fact is, taking revenge on someone literally reinforces the hurt caused by the incident which inspired us to want to seek it in the first place. It cements the pain in position and invites us to think about it over and over, branding it into our subconscious. Vengeance turns letters written in chalk into words carved in stone. It may feel satisfying at first, but it’s a sugar high that leaves a cavity behind.
This is not a judgement of vengeful behavior. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual guidelines are not about judgement at all. The ten commandments, for instance, are actually divine advice meant to improve the overall quality of our lives. The original Hebrew names them “utterances” rather than “commands.” Take that to heart. Vengeance may be natural to us, but the advice is to try something else. You’ll find that you’re bothered by it less. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your peace.
It’s hard. Especially since it’s so delicious. But what kind of nutrition are your after, really? That same Psychology Today article also referred to a study which showed that those who did seek revenge feared that they would feel even worse if they had not done it. But those who did not take justice into their own hands, scored happier.
“You have heard it said, ‘eye for an eye,’ but I tell you to turn the other cheek,” said a wise man once. This advice is good stuff. It works. It’s more comfortable. It places our attention on what we want more of, not less. It removes the power from that which wounded us and transforms it to a balm.
Spiritual practice is easy to say and hard to do. That’s why they call it practice.
Posted by Wil Darcangelo, M.Div. at 4:06 PM