Learning to focus the emotions of revenge for good
Revenge – the desire for it can be a powerful and even overwhelming emotion. Sadly, thinking about revenge can be a fun, motivating and bonding experience. It occupies our minds with creative and often diabolical means with which to carry out our purpose. It is amazing how the development of such a negative action can spur such positive feelings. So wait – if all of these positive feelings come from planning revenge, can we rightfully label it as wrong? Absolutely! Just because something makes you feel good or empowered or focused doesn’t mean you are becoming a better person Remember, Satan felt good and was empowered. He was definitely focused when he rebelled against God. We all know how THAT will turn out! Can revenge ever be good? How do we recognize, manage and direct these feelings?
Thoughts of revenge
Psychological studies clearly indicate that the human brain responds positively to thoughts of revenge. When the brain produces the chemicals that tell us something is good or desirable, we obviously are attracted to it (revenge in this case) on a subconscious level. This creates a real problem for us if we are trying to “walk the high road” and put thoughts of getting even away. Our physiological “instinct” is to seek retribution...and that “instinct” is deeply persistent. What do we do?
The first thing is to follow this “what if” equation of revenge out to its theoretical conclusion. If planning it brings desirable reactions, what about actually following through and getting it? What does your brain tell you now? Well, it tells you the exact opposite! Psychological studies indicate that the act of revenge produces a negative response in our brains. The findings indicate that carrying out such an act helps the original trauma for which we sought revenge in the first place to take a deeper residence in our brains, producing persistent negative feelings. Essentially, getting revenge only makes the whole trauma worse and its negative effects more lasting and powerful!
ME, ME, ME!
Our next stop in understanding and defeating this desire is to look at it in comparison to actual justice. This is a revealing place to stop and think, because revenge and justice are entirely different. Revenge is all about ME. It is all about retaliating in such a way as to make myself feel better. I plan and do things that I feel will not necessarily even the score but will make a statement of my own strength or resiliency. Justice is simply about doing that which is right – it is about an appropriate reaction to a wrong and not an emotional reaction to a hurt. Thinking about it may be fun, but following justice is right. Boring? Maybe. The best answer? Always!
There is so much more to this. Not only does the Bible emphatically teach us to run away from revenge, it also teaches us how to refocus its energy towards appropriate and positive responses. Check out our May 22, 2017 podcast, “How Sweet is Revenge?” and see for yourself how our thoughts and feelings can be transformed! You never know, listening may help you change your thinking!
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