The old adage goes, Revenge is a dish best served cold. That suggests it’s better to be tough (so you are not hurt again) and cunning (until you can get even). Not good for anyone, including those who’ve been hurt. Ditto for immediate responses of anger, physical violence, and words that cannot be unspoken. All set us on a path to unhappiness, disease, dis-ease, and a generalized sense that the world is an unfriendly, even hostile, environment.
But hurt is a heavy burden. You know the difference between the lightness you feel when you are joyous and the weight sadness brings to your soul. In the movie 21 Grams, that miniscule amount is the difference between a living person and their empty husk. Would it be more on a very bad day?
Other than spirit itself, what weights a soul? Wounds, sadness, anger, regret, unrequited longing, unhappy memories, words spoken and not, scars of body, mind, and heart.
The grudges and hurts of a lifetime form a subliminal refrain. Something your parent or a teacher said. The ex you can’t get over. A bad review, criticism from a friend, a mistake you can’t forgive yourself for making, the chance you didn’t take. It all festers. Whether we want revenge, oblivion, or another chance, we’re unlikely to get it this time around. We need forgiveness, from and to ourselves and others.
In this week’s reading, Joseph, now a governor of Egypt, looks down from his dais at the very brothers who sold him into slavery. They’ve come petitioning for sanctuary and grain.
What’s a guy to do? Embrace and thank them for initiating events that brought him to high position? Or hide behind the masks of office and test them, see if they are worthy of his help?
It’s the rare person who would choose the former. But bearing a grudge keeps him caught in a dark place too. He escaped the pit and slavery, but they cast a shadow on his soul. The forgiveness he is working on towards those who wronged him will benefit him as much as those who treated him badly.
Often times we bury our wounds in our bodies. We encapsulate them emotionally but they fester in our aching backs or sour tummies. They simmer, keeping us unbalanced, hurting, and unavailable to be fully present
It’s amazing what letting go of old pain can do to heal us. Recent studies have shown that memory transfers cellularly to future generations. So lineages of abuse and trauma get multiplied. What if we infected one another with forgiveness and goodness instead?
Q: How can we interrupt the cycle? A: No revenge: cold, warm, or otherwise. Keep releasing the anger, grief, and sadness, no matter how old or seemingly small. Remember it; look at it and let it go; then sweep out of your soul. Rinse and repeat. You’ll know when you’re clean.
From Peter Heller’s new novel The Painter:
It’s not possible to hold that much pain.
There was a silence and then she said, Even the earth rests. The moon swims up, thin as grass, and the stars, and you can see every one. It is a much quieter song.