On my very first meditation retreat one of my meditation teachers offered a compelling metaphor: Revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I found this to be one of those epiphany phrases, as it changed something in me. It makes a lot of sense. The angst and ill will you hold towards other people is not readily visible, so the only person really suffering from those difficult emotions is you.
Revenge motivates a constant thought process, which resembles rumination, and the anger that comes with it both physically tightens the body and eventually emits cortisol. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that slowly fatigues the body and can negatively affect metabolism, sleep, memory, and the body’s ability to fight illness.
Much like ill-conceived notions about depression, revenge is an exhausting business. Perhaps stranger than it being exhausting is that it develops a stronger rather than a weaker relationship to someone who has likely done you or somebody else harm. The more you think about them, the more you are connected.
So just so that we are caught up, revenge is tiring. It negatively affects sleep, your metabolism, memory, and your immune system. It also leads to body tightening and therefore possible injury over time. It can be the source of frequent rumination, and it makes you even closer to someone you do not like. Finally, the kicker is that while it is taking a toll on your system, the other person may be completely unaware.
My job is to look out for you. I don’t know this other person, and I have to say it stinks. In life you have two very important things: your goals and your loved ones. Pretty much everything else is a distraction. So you want to avoid distraction or things/people that/who do not bring you closer to your goals and loved ones. Revenge seems to be one of these things.
So from a self-compassion perspective, you want to address feelings of revenge or wanting to get even when they emerge for yourself not for other people. One of my favorite self-compassion mentors, Narayan, a long time meditation teacher, world traveller, and all around super hero in the world of kindness says that to maintain a state of compassion for herself or others that she will not kick people out of her heart, but she will definitely keep some people out of her house.
By this she means that she can wish people who have harmed her a better understanding of life and a good life without giving them a second opportunity to harm her by keeping them in her life. In essence, wish negative people insight and a good life and the thought disappears, so long as you also give yourself kindness by not accepting relationships with people who do not treat you with the utmost respect and kindness. Don’t hold onto anyone’s crap. That’s their crap!
We develop the attitude of moving people who are unkind to us or distractions out of our life and refocusing on our goals and loved ones, so that we can live a happy, meaningful life. Moving these people out of our life is also beneficial to our physical body and thinking mind too. We do not wish them harm because that only continues the story for us, which brings us back to all of the unpleasant stuff that will not serve as a resource for our goals or loved ones.
The secret gift of this practice is that it models to those around us that we only are willing to honor good relationships and that we simply don’t have time for toxic ones. You will also find yourself moving towards better relationships because it will become part of your approach to life!
Be patient with yourself if this change is a slow one for you. We are all on the path to try to be the best people we can be. None of us have it all together, so you don’t need to either. No matter where you are, take some time every day to ask yourself whether or not you have been kind to yourself and where you could make some more room for more kindness.
Kindness and self-compassion are two things you simply cannot have too much of.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 13. In the Books.