Most would consider this to have a negative, and perhaps, malevolent connotation… but really… retaliation is essentially a response to something negatively done to you.
No one has to teach someone to “get even.”
I see this first hand everyday with children. He tried to hurt my feelings, so I’m going to hurt his… or… He told on me, so now I’m going to make fun of him… or… She told me I looked ugly, so now I’m going to shame her on Facebook…
On and on the cycle goes. Now perhaps your retaliation is not so petty or childish (orrrrrrrr maybe it is), but what is your gut reaction when you are wronged?
Give them a taste of their own medicine? Neglect to remember what you were supposed to do for them? Leave them in the dark about something important? Shut them out? Report them to someone? Set them up to fail? Ignore them? Choose not to do something nice for them? Gossip?
Retaliation is one of those behaviors that tend not to change drastically from childhood to adulthood… we grab onto it so tightly. Why?
Justice! Fairness! Teach them a lesson!
We are so pious aren’t we? (ssssarrrrcassssm)
But what if we responded to insult and injury differently? What if we didn’t “stick it to ’em?” What if instead of reacting in a way that is “natural” or “normal,” we chose something else? Getting even only feels good for a moment. After that vindication, there is still a broken and tenuous relationship you have to face the next day, and the next day, and the next day… And then we complain about it?
So what about retaliating with LOVE instead?
What’s that you say?? They don’t deserve it?
You are 100% right! They don’t. And if you allow your mind to be fixated on this, you will never be able to retaliate differently than your instinctual/impulsive/barbarous… oh, I mean “natural” response. (Hmmmm… maybe natural does not equal good or right all the time…)
So what is retaliating with love? I suppose we need to define love (since we already have a firm grasp on retaliation). Love is simply elevating someone else’s well-being above your own. Love is sacrificial. Love is not earned. Love is a chosen response to show positive affection toward someone.
Love is the LAST thing someone expects to receive when they know they have wronged you.
BUT! That is why it is SO effective and SO beautiful.
When you respond in love, not only are you sparing yourself from dwelling on hateful and negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions… but you are highlighting the other person’s wrong AND how you both could treat each other. When you receive undeserved love, there is a chance for a moment of confusion… gratefulness… feeling undeserving… sorriness… regret.
I say a chance, because I cannot promise that your aggressor will receive your love in the most ideal way possible. They may completely reject it or not understand it or ignore it. But their reaction is not your responsibility or under your control. You are responsible for you. Would you rather live knowing your are prolonging discord or live knowing you chose rightly.
We will surely face suffering in this life time, especially interpersonal discord… but we can choose to suffer for choosing wrong or suffer when choosing good. Choosing good leaves you with a clear conscience at the end of the day… and the possibility of ending discord and restoring relationships.
From personal experience with someone I chose to disdain for years, I can tell you that hate, anger, getting even, scolding, ignoring, etc. did not change him/her. What changed him/her (and ME) was choosing to love them, despite how hard it was in the moment… despite how “wrong” or undeserved it felt… Love was the hard choice, but love was the right choice.
Who do you need to LOVE today?