Hurting one another is a vicious cycle human beings engage in to our own destruction. Someone hurts us, intentionally or not, and we want them to suffer as we have. We cry out that we want justice, but what we are really asking for is vengeance. Justice is to seek restoration of what was broken, rebuilding what was destroyed. Vengeance is to have the one who wronged us feel the some semblance of our pain, endure our suffering. Rarely does vengeance include a desire to be reconciled once the punishment is over, and that is one of the keys to determining if we are more interested in vengeance or justice.
I had the unfortunate experience of being betrayed by someone so close to me, that it threatened to destroy me. Betrayal is more than a breach of trust; it is the destruction of relationship, breaking the bond knitted together over time and through the cultivation of respect, even love. When I was betrayed, I struggled just to make it through the day. I never knew how physically painful emotional suffering could be. It made me question who I was and my worth as a person, the fallout of psychological trauma. It threatened to undo me. I was angry. I was hurt. I was desperately mourning my loss, and I knew that this person would never understand, never fully know what they had done to me. I was never going to be the same person I was before, and I was livid that this had been done to me. For a long time I wanted that person to know. I yearned for them to feel just an ounce of the burden I bore as result of their sin. I wanted them to feel pain, loss, and try to live every breath with the knowledge that they had ruined this relationship, just as I did. Then something happened. I woke up one day and I was sick of the pain, over the suffering. I just wanted it to be gone. I didn’t want to pass it along, redistribute it to that person or anyone else. I just wanted to bury it, and let it stay that way.
I am not talking about burying my pain as in suppressing it. Quite the opposite, I sat with and worked through that pain by the grace of God for many months, more than year. Little by little the love of God started to heal me, give me hope, and lead me onward from the hell I had known. The farther away God led me, the less I ever wanted to go back. Not only did I want to walk away from it, but I didn’t want anyone else to have to go there. Suffering is not the bonding experience culture portrays it to be. Suffering is tragic and the raw truth that many people suffer the same painful experiences is not cause for celebration, but mourning. The bonding occurs when we want to leave the pain and suffering to find healing, and a new wholeness which only God can provide. When I got far enough away from that dark depths of my initial suffering, I was able to look back from a new vantage point and see how pointless it would be to wish that suffering on another. Suffering after the fact would not change what had occurred. We want to argue as a society that it will prevent other future occurrences, but that is not usually the case. If we could learn from the lessons of others, then we would not make so many mistakes ourselves, but humanity just seems to need to do it our way, even if that is the same way thousands, if not millions, of other people have tried and failed. So when I thought about what to do with that pain and suffering I did not want for myself and I realized that I did not want it for anyone else, even the one who arguable might have deserved it, I knew that I had to stop the cycle of sin and suffering. I cannot change the other person, but I can change how I react to their sin, how I perpetuate (or not) my suffering. I am choosing to bury it, seal it away so that it cannot harm another person. I know there will still be pain and suffering in the world, but this pain and suffering will end here. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, I refuse to be a vessel of anything but reconciliation and love. I will grant grace, rather than seek vengeance, and I entrust justice to the only one capable of truly bringing it to fruition: God Almighty. As difficult as it is to let go, I hope and pray others will find the strength to do likewise. Christ has empowered us to triumph over sin, not just ours, but the sins of others. To respond in kind would be to let sin have power over us, and no one and no thing should rule us but Christ, the epitome of God’s love and culminating act of reconciliation.