Thursday, June 25, 2020

"the purpose of revenge..."

"I have been in
the revenge business so long,
now that’s it’s over,
I do not know what to do
with the rest of my life."

My friend, Sandi, shared this brief clip from an interview with Mandy Patinkin, about "his favorite line," [quoted above] from the classic film, The Princess Bride.

You see, when Mandy Patinkin speaks, I listen. He is a man of integrity and courage -- in my very humble, and admiring, opinion.  Time and again, he has chosen humanity over celebrity.  That means something to me.

Revenge is not a subject I've had much experience with.  I have really known very few vengeful people.  My exposure to that way of dealing with emotional injury is very limited.  

It's only been in the last few years that I've noticed how vengeance poisons a person's nobility of character, and limits their contribution to society.

As human beings, we all make mistakes.  We say things we regret. We act out in ways that are contrary to our best intentions.  We react to things said or done - to us - in ways that undermine our highest sense of who we are.  But for the most part, I have always seen, and experienced, a return to grace.  A general forgiveness of one another.  A desire to preserve one another's humanity.

But Mandy's interview made me realize that over the course of the past few years, I have noted an alarming social acceptance of vengefulness.  I can't help but ask myself, "How have we moved from the beauty of mercy, to the coarseness of revenge?"  Mandy's final statement in the above clip:

“And I love that line - because the purpose of revenge, in my personal opinion, is completely worthless and pointless. The purpose of existence is to embrace our fellow human being, not be revengeful, and turn our darkness into light. That’s the line I love from the movie."
agrees with everything I believe about this wasted emotional response to injury, disrespect, or hurt.  Isn't the purpose of our very existence the expression of love - in greater and greater degrees. Aren't we called to expand the heart's capacity to forgive, to show compassion, to model grace?

In fact, in Scripture Jesus enjoins us, "love your enemies." Isn't this the very opposite of revenge.  Every vengeful thought, word, and deed is a wasted opportunity to stretch our old boundaries, and grow into a more expansive and perfect love.

Imagine how little Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, and Eddy would have accomplished if they had been consumed with seeking revenge on those who had caused moral, physical, or social injury to them. They didn't waste their time settling old scores. They filled their lives with examples of forgiveness, mercy, grace. Today we still look to their examples when the ego seeks redress, but our spiritual selfhoods know there is a higher ground, a more enriching response.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, in her groundbreaking collection, The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany:

“Each day I pray:
“God bless my enemies;
make them Thy friends;
give them to know
the joy and the peace of love.”

What a beautiful prayer to counter the baseness of the ego's petty desire for vengeance. To arrest the base suggestion that we will find personal satisfaction in our ability to settle the score, or "show them."

May each of our hearts rise above the pull of self-justification.  May we refuse to become insensitive to vengefulness. May we grasp the opportunity for maturing affections. And may revenge never become so natural to our sensibilities that we forget our common humanity - and the right to extend the gift of mercy, forgiveness, grace to all.

offered with Love,


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