Forgiveness Day 3 // The Difference between Forgiveness and Vengeance

Image by Beautiful Light Photography

Image by Beautiful Light Photography

Jonah 4

The story of Jonah is both a comedy and a tragedy. It’s comical because of the irony: a prophet actively trying to hide from God while all the pagan pirates and the city of Nineveh were more than willing to ask God for mercy when the situation calls for it. It’s tragic because Jonah didn’t understand God’s mercy towards the Ninevites and the pirates,  and refused to forgive his enemies. Instead, he held onto his desire for vengeance.

I understand the desire of having revenge all too well. Back in college, I constantly listened to Taylor Swift’s “Better Than Revenge” because I was majorly angry at a friend of mine who hooked up with my first boyfriend. It wasn’t because I still had feelings for said ex-boyfriend, though. It was because I wanted him to be miserable for the rest of his life. The same desire for revenge came around again when I had my first panic attack and the people in the room showed no compassion to me. I was determined to be a successful person, to make more money and live in a big city just like Taylor Swift said in her song “Mean.” 

In the long run, though, all those revenge fantasies got me nowhere. After college, I ended up moving back with my parents with no job prospects. What made things worse was that I was still struggling with anxiety on a daily basis. It took  years for me to finally stop thinking of myself as a victim and ask God to really help me heal from everything I went through.

The key to forgiving someone without wanting vengeance is to change the narrative. I’m not saying to act as if nothing ever happened. I’m asking you to stop seeing yourself as the victim here. Forgiveness isn’t a game of losers and winners, of victims and attackers. It’s about two or more people who are all suffering because of a certain event or action,  and all are in need of healing. 

One thing I learned in the process of forgiving all those who hurt me was that they all had their own pain and sufferings in their lives. For a while, I felt sorry for those who hurt me. They could’ve learned how to work through whatever pain and hurt they had in their lives. Instead, they continued the vicious cycle of pain and suffering and inflicted their hurt onto me.

The cycle of pain, suffering, and vengeance can only be broken by having compassion, mercy, and forgiveness towards those who have hurt you. Because someday, that chance for reconciliation may be lost forever. Never let your last words to anyone be hateful ones, no matter how angry you are at them. 

Today’s song is a really old one, called “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” The song talks about wondering if we will be with our loved ones in Heaven, but the the title of the song is what speaks to me. Will the constant cycle of pain, suffering, and revenge in our lives be broken? The Lord has the answer to that, of course. 

Lord, help us to find compassion and mercy in our hearts. 

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

Reflection

1.How often do you seek revenge or retaliation instead of forgiveness in a situation? Did getting that revenge or evening the score feel as well as you expected? Why or why not?

2.Have you ever broken a cycle of vengeance in your life? How do you think you can break one going on now?

Action: In your prayers today, ask God to help you break this vicious cycle.