An Eye for an Eye?

“An eye for an eye will only leave the world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi

This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness and non-violence.  I often hold on to contempt because I think it will give me control.  “If I hold onto to this anger, I will show the offender that their words or actions were so disgusting that they deserve my wrath–I am in control.”  This is a lie I tell myself.  What actually happens is that the “offenders” negative actions or words gain control over me.  The resentment that stirs in my heart does not serve me but eats at me–makes me bitter, depressed, ugly. All I can think about is how angry I am with the person.  I feel my heart rate increase and my chest tighten up just thinking about them. I am in bondage to contempt.  Conversely, forgiveness frees me. It allows me to move past anger, bitterness, depression, self pity and on to better, more life giving things.

Forgiveness is not denying that someone hurt you or even having to trust that person with your emotional or physical safety.  It is letting go of those negative feelings of resentment for the offender.  It’s recognizing their humanity and refraining from demonizing the perpetrator.  Demonizing or dehumanizing is a slippery slope. Forgiveness is about freeing yourself, not about avoiding justice. Many studies have been done to examine the physiological and psychological benefits of forgiveness.  Some of these benefits include:

  • healthier relationships
  • greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • less stress and hostility
  • lower blood pressure
  • fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain
  • lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse.
There are millions of people in this world who have been hurt in ways I can not imagine.  Some have chosen to hold on to their anger and I have no judgement for them–how can I when I hold on to much smaller offenses?  But others, who have faced extreme cruelty have offered forgiveness beyond my wildest dreams.  A mother who lost her son on 9/11 became a co-peace wager with the mother of one of the terrorists.  The Amish community that morned with the family of the man who had  shot 12 of their young girls execution style in their classroom.  The people of South Africa who opted for restorative justice in place of retribution in the wake of the Apartheid governments state instituted violence.

In a world where violence is usually responded to with more violence, these “forgivers” and peace seekers may be labeled as weak.  But what really takes more strength?  To hate someone who has wronged you is easy.  Forgiveness is by far the more difficult choice.

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2 thoughts on “An Eye for an Eye?

  1. Julie

    A couple of weeks ago, another Melissa emailed me her zen moment –

    Holding resentment is like eating poison and waiting for the other
    person to keel over.

    More love is always the answer.

    Love,

    Julie

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