Perhaps you are familiar with, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves”, or maybe it’s, “always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.” Although I find both of these statements to be wise and insightful, they are not the particular quote I aim to focus on during this week’s blog post.
Instead I would like to direct our attention to my favorite Mahatma Ghandi quote, and one of my favorite quotes in general: “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Simple enough, right? So, what is it about this quote that I find so compelling and empowering?
To understand, I think it would first help to translate, in my own words, what this quote means…
If we are constantly trying to get even with those who we feel have wronged us, we are accomplishing nothing but destruction. In other words, instead of trying to move forward and move past a hurtful experience, we remain stuck trying to plot revenge on those who we feel have wronged us. And by doing so, we enter a vicious cycle of hatred and seeking vengeance that will never truly be fulfilled.
The thing about getting back at someone is, it never quite makes us feel as good as we had envisioned; in fact, some times it has the polar opposite effect.
Sometimes we’ll temporarily feel as if we’ve accomplished something by “getting back” at someone; but that’s all it is- a temporary relief, and then back to the drawing board we go… either with guilt, or another, “better” plot of revenge. One hypothetical instance of this would be getting in front of that person who just cut you off on the road. You may start to think, “how dare they! How do they decide that where they have to be is any more important than where I have to be?!” And then begin the back-and-forth anger based competition of who gets to sit at the red light in front of who. Because, more often than not you end up sitting at the same stop light, or in the same traffic jam as them feeling uncomfortable because of some silly, insignificant bout of road rage. Now you’re both either just angry with your blood boiling, or avidly trying to avoid eye contact because you are well aware of how foolish you just behaved.
But, what if you had only THOUGHT before you acted? I know this is not always the easiest thing to do, but for an instance like this… what if you just gave the person who cut you off the benefit of the doubt and thought, “maybe they just honestly didn’t see me”. If you went about thinking this way, you wouldn’t have sought out your master plot of “revenge” by entering a non-stop weaving competition between you and Mr./Ms. Roadrage. Which, in all honesty, did nothing but accelerate your heart rate and make your blood pressure sky-rocket. On the contrary, you could have accepted it as a mistake and just carried along your drive without a second-thought of this person. Now, which of these scenarios seems ideal?
Besides, even if it wasn’t a mistake, at the end of the day, should that one person cutting you off really impact your day that much?
A lot of times, for me, it is helpful to ask myself, “what do I want to get from this interaction?” I’ll give you a real life example… a few years ago, I was faced with a dilemma that I could have approached with the mindset of “an eye for an eye”… My sophmore year of college I began to feel as if my best friend had started to distance herself from me. At first, I didn’t think too much into this distancing. I figured we were both just caught up in our own lives and that was just part of growing up and going away to school. But as more and more time went on, I really thought about it and realized that it had been months since we had a real- involved conversation; which was very unusual for a friendship like ours.
After coming to this realization, I’ll be honest, I felt a little slighted and anxious. I wondered what I may have done in order for my best friend to feel as if she should pull back from me. But, then I also realized that the only way to know the answer was to put my feelings aside and go straight to the source and make sure everything was okay. I just openly and honestly asked her if I had done anything to hurt her feelings and make her feel as if she wasn’t as important to me as she had been in the past. She instantly broke down and told me that she was distancing herself from me because she felt exactly as I feared she might, that she wasn’t as important to me as she had been. We talked that night for hours and caught up with each other on a lot of the big things we felt as if the other had missed. By the end of the call she thanked me for reaching out and getting to the bottom of it, because she had felt as if she was losing her best friend.
But, what if I hadn’t? What if I just decided that since she hadn’t reached out to me in a while, that that meant she just didn’t care– and that, in turn, I should do the same? I could have just said, “forget it” and decided, “fine. If she doesn’t want to talk to me, then I don’t want to talk to her.” And then what? Lose a decade long friendship all because I felt it was more important to get even than to get to the bottom of something? We would have both lost out on something very important to us for no good reason.
It’s like many scenarios that follow this mentality… you feel as if you are slighted, therefore, you also feel it is important for the other person to feel your pain. Or, in a situation like this, you feel irrelevant so you decide that you will treat them as they are treating you; or how you perceive they are treating you. But, it’s typically not that black and white. And a lot of times we aren’t able to see things for what they really are- especially when emotions are involved.
That person who cut you off before, just let them. Decide to give them the benefit of the doubt, and take it for what it is. It wasn’t a personal attack on you, but rather just someone who either didn’t see you, or someone in a rush to get somewhere one car before you. At the end of the day, how much did that really impact you?
When all is said and done, nobody “wins” by getting even. Instead, you just become consumed by your own anger, and take away your own peace of mind.
So, that friend who’s been acting differently towards you? Make sure everything is okay, instead of jumping on the defense and deciding to give what you feel you are getting. You never know what could really be going on from someone else’s perspective.
Are you struggling with putting your pride aside, being empathetic or showing kindness to others in your life, or simply feel that you do not as you should? Sometimes having a partner in your journey can help. Give us a call to set up a free phone consultation at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378, and one of our Orlando Individual Counselors, Orlando Life Coaches, Orlando Teen Counselors, and Orlando Child counselors would be more than happy to help you, a family member, or a friend work on changing your life.