Torres column: Spending energy on revenge is unproductive
“If it’s revenge that you seek, you’d better dig two graves” is a Chinese proverb that makes a lot of sense in two ways, in my opinion:
In the first place, I come from a very poor area of Mexico. Dangerous gangs fight each other for territory and respect. When I was younger I used to hang out with a very mean guy named Beto. One day I saw him beating up a guy and stepping on his head because he was messing with his girlfriend. We all knew in the neighborhood that Beto was one of the most dangerous guys on our streets. He not only beat up guys, he would get angry enough to kill.
I got into some dangerous situations from hanging out with people like Beto. As for Beto himself, he lost many of his family members because he got into gang wars. He almost got killed many times, and I have no idea if he is still alive. The last time I heard from him, he was in jail.
The truth is that many people are full of anger and can’t forgive a slight. This is how the chain of revenge starts. For example, Beto lost family members because he was always seeking revenge, and one day it might be his turn to go.
The second example of how the proverb makes sense to me deals with a friend whose boyfriend left her for another woman. When I spoke to her, it was very obvious she was hurting from the decisions her ex made. She wanted the guy to feel the same pain she was feeling and make him feel destroyed and humiliated like she did. She had a lot of anger. She struggled to understand that her anger would do nothing to make this guy feel like she feels, and if she had the opportunity to make this guy feel like her, she would be spending a lot of her energy on revenge that would worsen the circumstances not only for him but for her when she could be focusing on her happiness. If she remains angry for life or until she achieves her revenge, she might die bitter and without happiness. In other words, she might be dying alive.
I made many mistakes and hurt many people, and because I am a human being and I understand how everyone else feels, I always ask for forgiveness from the person and compensate for the mistake. We are only human beings, and we are going to continue making mistakes. That does not mean that we should just make decisions without thinking and not take the consequences into consideration. It means a mistake is something that we took for granted because we unconsciously failed to consider the consequences. In other cases, we just become blind to reality.
Beto and I were not good friends. I just knew him from the street, but we never really got close. One day, he got very mad at me and beat me up; a couple of face punches and I was on the floor. Luckily that was enough for him to release his anger and leave me alone. I think I never sought revenge because I knew what could have happened.
I got unjustly arrested by a Glenwood police officer who treated me like a delinquent. I got angry at the time and was thinking about using all my resources to sue him, but I would have spent all my energy on something that does not really matter. I lost 10 hours of my life and a couple of hundred dollars and a gained a headache to reinstate my driver’s license. My only hope is that he is happy thinking he brought a very dangerous person to justice.
I have been left for another guy; I spent a lot of money on two surgeries that were not the right ones and had to be redone, costing more money; I have had money stolen violently … you get the point. However, I don’t live with anger or feelings of revenge. Of course, this is nothing compared to what has happened to other people. I have heard the worst stories. Nevertheless I have reasons to be angry and bitter, but I choose to be happy and forgive and understand everyone who has done wrong to me because I have done wrong as well.
Can you imagine if I would have gotten mean and fought Beto later on? Or if I would have gotten into a conflict with the police officer? Or lived my life with anger? I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I could be dead, exhausted, or not moving forward with the goals that really count. Or I could be dying alive.
I also keep in mind that the best revenge I can have is my own success, to show those who treated me unfairly that I am better than they think and that their aggression won’t stop me.
When we have anger and hunger for revenge in a negative way, we end up in wars, or become bitter from the anger, which in turn makes us self-destructive by overeating, doing drugs, drinking and so on.
So when the smart Chinese person wrote the proverb, “If it’s revenge that you seek, you’d better dig two graves,” I think he was giving us advice about how to live a better life.
Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently.” His column appears on the second Monday of the month in Body & More.
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