I recently posted Primed for Payback, reflecting on a favorite person and story in the Bible. When I wrote it, I knew something more personal was stirring, but it needed to simmer a bit longer. I needed to check my motivation and presentation. There’s so much misguided anger and accusations in our culture right now, and I don’t want to add to it. Yet we need to remind each other what to do when something begins to build in us, and we want to retaliate or hold on to something.
Many of you have read Fractured Into Wholeness or at least know some of my story through this blog. I’ve shared what it felt like to go through a betrayal and divorce, when my thought-to-be-lifetime-partner wasn’t willing to talk about things—at first, to anyone, but as time passed, he began to put together pieces that, at least to him, rationalized what he had done. Yet he would not communicate any of his story or accusations directly to me. After all, I knew details. I knew context. And I would hold him accountable.
As I’d hear of ways he was misconstruing or rewriting things from the distant past, there were times I wanted to do the same. Why shouldn’t I share faults, bad decisions and habits, and other skeletons?
Because I won’t.
What good would that do? Why would I add to the pile? Doing so says something about character. That’s not who I am. It’s not who I want to become. Not to mention, the people I love are too important to hurt more than they already are. I would rather help heal than hurt. But I want to be authentic about the process, because I know people who are hurting for a variety of reasons, and resentment and unforgiveness are real emotions that can just as easily motivate lashing actions than peaceful resolution.
I’m not saying justice isn’t important. It absolutely is, but our motivation for it matters. And let’s remember: justice is beyond us. We aren’t the keepers of all things right.
The choices someone makes have consequences. In the short term, someone might build themselves up by tearing others down. They might create their own reality to make their current circle of friends support them. They might make themselves feel better. And that approach might work for the short-term. But what cancerous deterioration does it cause within? What will the lasting effects be as relationships are tainted? If you or I choose the easy, low road, we do the same damage to ourselves and others.
Listen, I get it: I get tired of choosing well. Even though it’s who I want to be, authenticity is difficult. But seeking and living truth is always worth the effort. It’s my choice (and yours) to show compassion instead of doing whatever it takes to prove a point. There is no justification for tearing other people down. If you’re on the receiving end of self-centered justification, you have options of how to respond. Respect and honesty is a better context than engaging in tactics that you have personally experienced as damaging.
You might be primed for payback, not just because of what you feel but because of what you know. That does not justify payback. Be better. Payback might give you momentary satisfaction, but the long-lasting costs are too high. Choose better—one situation, one conversation, one person at a time. I think we have a responsibility to do that for the people we love most who will have to live with the ripple effects of our choices.