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The Best Revenge is No Revenge

As I have said before, many people in my life have been mean to me. Work colleagues, hard-hearted people masquerading as friends, even some family members. I have had countless people feel the overwhelming need to tell me what I’m doing is wrong, how my choices are incorrect, and at times, how horrible I’ve looked. It no longer surprises me how people who claim to be well-meaning (but really only have their own selfish issues at heart) will say insulting and demeaning things directly to a person’s face - specifically MY face - that I would never even dream of saying to another human being, much less think them in the first place.

Over the years I have learned that these people’s acidic spewings have nothing to do with me, rather it has to do with their own misery and unrelenting feelings of unhappiness. Putting someone else down, especially someone who chooses to look at the world with optimism and hope, somehow makes them feel better about themselves and their perpetually bleak outlook on things. While I know this to be true, sometimes that realization doesn’t fully take the sting out of a comment or a judgement made by someone whom I have chosen to trust and who purports to have my best interests at heart.

Many years ago I saw something that said, “The best revenge is a happy life.” I like that concept, because it goes along with the old “sticks and stones” or “I’m rubber and you’re glue” schoolyard sayings in response to a bully’s taunts. If we can ignore the bad things that people say to us to try to bring us down to their sad and hopeless level, then we will rise above their meanness and not give them the satisfaction of making us more like them. In short, to get back at them, by doing the opposite of what they want.

But now I have a different way of looking at this. How about if we remove the part about “getting back at them” in the first place? Instead of taking in what these people say to us and turning it around, what if we didn’t even allow it to enter our consciousness at all. What if we didn’t give the bullies and the naysayers and the discouragers even one ounce of our attention or acknowledgement? How about instead of saying, “How dare they say that to me, I’ll show ‘em!” and giving them even one iota of power over our own decisions and our own lives, we simply dismissed them as not the people that we need right now in our circle of support and moved on immediately? That shifts the power from them and their vitriol, to us and our strength and unfailing belief in ourselves and our own abundant sense of worth.

Here’s the thing: When we assign someone else too much authority over our lives, then whatever they say, good or bad, can have far too much of an impact over what we know is true for ourselves. If someone compliments us on an outfit we’re wearing, or a haircut, or on something we’ve artistically created, those things can automatically get vaulted into the category of something that we like more or something that we’re more proud of, regardless of how we actually think about it. Then the outfit becomes “The One That People Said I Look Good In,” instead of “The One That I Like and That Makes Me Feel Good In.” See the difference? By the same token, I’ve had clothes that I’ve loved that people have make rude comments to me about, and as a result they have been relegated to the back of my closet or given away immediately, because now they have this other person’s negative opinion attached to it. Why on earth should I care what someone else says about something I own that I love? Why should I attach any amount of importance to what they think and what they, for some unknown reason, need to tell me about it?

The point is, the concept of revenge continues to put the power into the hands of the offensive and offending person. When people spend their time daydreaming about how to exact revenge on the person who has wronged them, they are using up precious time and energy on someone who does not deserve even a millisecond more of their mental and physical bandwidth. Planning revenge against someone gives that person exactly what they wanted in the first place: to bring you down to their level of anger, disappointment, frustration, contempt, and misery. Resentment, vengeance, vindictiveness, and spite are all choices that we make ourselves, and while they might seem comforting in the moment, they are not a recipe for a happy and fulfilling life.

So while I used to think that the best revenge against someone who has wronged me was to live my happiest life possible, I now believe that the best revenge is no revenge, which keeps my power where it belongs; in my own heart, in my own mind, and firmly rooted in my own happiness.

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