When someone hurts us, it’s natural to feel the desire to hurt them back. However, acting on that desire can be a bad move from our part.
When you wound another person, emotionally or physically, you feel wounded as well. It has been reported that hurting others may lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt and agitation within us. We are social animals after all and have an innate need to care about others. So, hurting others hurts us too.
In her TED Talk, “It hurts to hurt someone,” Maryann Jacobi Gray explains, “Psychologists and clergy use the term ‘moral injury’ to describe the distress that we feel when our behavior fails to live up to our moral standards. And because most of us do fall short on occasion, most of us are familiar with that churning combination of guilt and shame and self-condemnation with a big hefty dose of defensiveness thrown in.”
It’s wise to keep these words of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn always at the back of our minds:
“Punishing the other person is self-punishment.
That is true in every circumstance.”
So, what do we do when someone wounds us? How do we act? In his article “All of Us Are One,” Eknath Easwaran points out that developing spiritual awareness and making divinity a part of our daily life can be incredibly helpful in navigating our interactions with other people in the modern world. He explains:
“The same spark of divinity – this same Self – is enshrined in every creature. My real Self is not different from yours nor anyone else’s. The mystics are telling us that if we want to live in the joy that increases with time, if we want to live in true freedom independent of circumstances, then we must strive to realize that even if there are four people in our family or forty at our place of work, there is only one Self.
This realization enables us to learn to conduct ourselves with respect to everyone around us, even if they provoke us or dislike us or say unkind things about us. And that increasing respect will make us more and more secure. It will enable us gradually to win everybody’s respect, even those who disagree with us or seem disagreeable.”
We all come across people who are unfair or mean to us, who disrespect, hurt, or ridicule us. And during those unpleasant occasions, it’s easy to feel a rush of anger and hate and a strong desire to hit them back and make them feel as we felt. But that’s neither justice nor revenge.
Spiritual living demands us to learn to do the exact opposite. We must remove our attention from the person and their faults, and instead focus on the divinity within.
When someone hurts you, remind yourself: “Hurting this person will hurt me too. So, I will not do that.” That, as Marcus Aurelius wrote, will also be the best revenge — to not be like the other person.
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