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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Lapierre Stone

Forget Revenge- Just Forgive and Forget

Updated: Feb 10, 2019

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Forgiveness is so important, yet imparting forgiveness versus seeking revenge is a tough call for most of us. Swiss researchers have pinpointed the area of our brain that experiences the desire for revenge, and it is the very area that processes rewards. Revenge usually does give us a hit of instant gratification, but it’s short-lived and even prolongs the pain that the original wrongdoing caused. Some researchers believe it can even amplify the original event, causing it to loom even larger than it originally did.

“When we don't get revenge, we're able to trivialize the event. We tell ourselves that because we didn't act on our vengeful feelings, it wasn't a big deal, so it's easier to forget it and move on,” says Colgate University researcher Dr. Kevin Carlsmith who published a study about the long-term effects of revenge. But when we do get revenge, we can no longer trivialize the situation. Instead, we think about it. A lot."Rather than providing closure, it does the opposite: it keeps the wound open and fresh," he says.

I learned about the Lakota concept of The Red Road versus the Black Road during a sweat lodge ceremony on Maui. A guy I had recently met invited me along, and on a Saturday afternoon we drove up the winding roads of the Haleakala volcano to the rural town of Kula. He pulled into a bumpy dirt driveway leading to a sprawling tract of green, rolling private land. The leader of the sweat lodge had a big fire heating the rocks next to a dome-shaped hut covered in heavy blankets where we would spend hours enduring the purification rite. The purpose of the sweat is to enter a state of humility to undergo a spiritual rebirth. During the sweat, the leader conveyed the powerful Lakota concept that the Red Road is the High Road, the one on which your Higher Self should be traveling. The Red Road is the good way, the good side, and the right choice. It is a road that is difficult with dangers and obstacles. The Black Road is the bad way, the bad side, and the wrong choice, and ironically it's wide and easy to travel. The Red Road and the Black Road appear in our lives as personifications of right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark. It can be tough to stay on the Red Road when you believe someone has done you wrong. However, even though as an initial concept it seems more difficult, love (forgiveness) always trumps fear (revenge). Stay on the Red Road.

In his book Excuses Begone! Dr. Wayne Dyer writes,

"At the root of virtually all spiritual practice is the notion of forgiveness. Think about every single person who has ever harmed you, cheated you, defrauded you, or said unkind things about you. Your experience of them is nothing more that a thought that you carry around with you. These thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that will dis-empower you. If you could release them, you would know more peace. You practice forgiveness for two reasons: to let others know that you no longer wish to be in a state of hostility with them and to free yourself from the self-defeating energy of resentment. Send love in some form to those you feel have wronged you and notice how much better you feel."

One of the most powerful examples of forgiveness is the story of a Cincinnati mother, Rukiye Abdul-Mutakallim, who hugged her son’s murderer in the courtroom and vowed to help the teenager to turn his life around. “Those young men – although they took my son’s life in the manner they did – we need to fight for them. Because they are going to come back out [of prison]. And they will be older. But if they have no light, then this same disease is going to repeat itself and they are going to take another person’s child’s life and eventually their own,” Rukiye said.

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