We all get hurt by people around us. Sometimes it’s the people we love dearly and sometimes it’s those we barely know. In either case, it’s something that’s hard to take. Being hurt, misjudged, overlooked, and stepped on isn’t easy. It’s also not easy to get past that pain, anger, and resentment. Our first instinct is probably to get even. We may want to hurt them back and pay pain with pain. Even the Old Testament talks of “an eye for an eye”. It’s deeply ingrained in our social conscience – this need to get even.
The sad truth though is that the pain we dish out can never cancel out the pain we receive. Instead, it simply adds to the pain and sparks another round of “retribution”. The end result is a never-ending cycle of pain and anger. Think of the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud from the late 1800s. What started as a simple disagreement, over a hog of all things, quickly turned into a war between two families that lasted for generations. The feud spiraled out of control so badly that we still know about it today. In each act of retribution and revenge, we see an attempt at canceling out pain received with pain given. It’s very apparent that this didn’t work.
It’s sad to realize in hind-sight that the choices of each party to continue inflicting pain on each other, instead of letting go and moving on, caused the feud to get worse instead of better, and more lives to be lost . In the case of the Hatfields and McCoys it seems obvious to us that they let things go way too far, that the path of revenge was silly at best, and truly devastating. It’s also clear that inflicting pain on the other party in no way decreased the pain of the party seeking revenge. In our everyday life, that isn’t always as clear.
Practicing letting go can be hard. We don’t want to let go when we’re hurt. We want the other person to pay for what they’ve done. Forgiving seems like we are giving in and giving up. Thankfully that’s far from the truth. Instead, we can let go because we chose to get past the pain and anger. While revenge and handing out more pain can’t cancel out the pain we feel, letting go can help us heal.
When we’re really honest we don’t want revenge. We don’t want to inflict more pain. What we really want is to heal and move on with our life. Practicing letting go will get us there. It doesn’t mean that we love the person who hurt us and it doesn’t even mean that we get back to the relationship we had before. But it does mean that we give up those feelings of resentment and the need to get even in order to find peace. Letting Go will help us heal and move on to a happier place.