An individual has no right to seek revenge, but the body politic has the right to punish the criminal. Such punishment is intended to dissuade and deter others from committing similar crimes. It is for the protection of the rights of man and does not constitute revenge, for revenge is that inner gratification that results from returning like for like. This is not permissible, for no one has been given the right to seek revenge. On the contrary, he should show forgiveness and magnanimity, for this is that which befits the human world. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed. p. 77)
When we feel hurt, angry and betrayed when someone wrongs us, we want these painful feelings to be relieved. The desire to inflict pain on those who have harmed us is a powerful internal force, which seems to be wired into our very DNA. It demands an emotional release in the hopes that the inner gratification that comes from returning like for like will either help us feel better or help us gain closure, but in fact, it has the opposite effect. Instead of quenching hostility, revenge prolongs the unpleasantness of the original offense. We end up punishing ourselves because we can’t heal. It’s like the sayings:
- Revenge is like grabbing a hot coal to throw it at someone else and you are the one that gets burned.
- Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world, and our job is to help Him achieve it. We can’t have unity with revenge. We can only have it with forgiveness and love. This is what’s so important about today’s quote. It gives us something we can do instead.
The fact that we want to take revenge implies that it still matters so first we need to recognize the emotion and the attachment. This can be hard to do without support, so when we lean on God and ask for the virtues we want instead, in this case forgiveness and magnanimity, we’re actually turning the test to our advantage and achieving our purpose in life.
Leaving justice to the institutions and to God, I know I can grow spiritually and I am grateful!
What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation? I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!
If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Forgive