In my recent post on How to Forgive Those Who Have Hurt You, I argued that forgiveness has MUCH more to do with the person doing the forgiving than the person who is being forgiven. We don’t forgive them for them, we forgive them for us. In that post, I also mentioned the desire for retribution, and the fact that when we want to punish someone, we are usually trying to “teach them a lesson”, redress the balance and make them feel the pain they caused, in an effort to get them to see our point of view. But it’s impossible to force someone to take on another person’s point of view. They can be led there and encouraged, but they can never be forced. Ultimately, our desire for revenge and retribution keeps us stuck in an emotional state anywhere between helplessness and rage, and only ends up hurting us more.
After that post was published, I received several questions like this one from Awesome Reader Ismael: “Do the wrong doers in our lives ever learn the hurt they cause? If not, then how come it’s not ok for me to start trouble just for fun? I mean if they can do wrong and still get away with it maybe I should do the same…I know it’s a chain reaction thing and you have to be the change you want to see but I’ve met individuals who have purposely gone around being malicious to others. Do they ever at least understand what they’ve caused, or is it just something I have to get used to – that some/most people never learn or that they’ll never know what they’ve caused…?”
Why we want revenge
One of the main reasons we feel so helpless when we’ve been wronged and why we want revenge is that we’ve grown up with a notion of a God who would judge us and hopefully (although we have no evidence of this, EVER), step in when the balance seems to be getting tipped the wrong way and punish those who have wronged us. We like the idea of some kind of force being out there, looking out for us and having our back. Even if we don’t or no longer believe in this type of God, the beliefs resulting from this paradigm are still very much alive and kicking. “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” becomes “If I truly create my own reality, then how could this horrible thing have happened?”
The problem is that we’re still often looking for an outside source to make and enforce the rules (even if we don’t know it). We want the world to be fair. And it is, but not in the way we thought it was (and let’s face it, it never was fair in that way.) If there truly were moral “rules” against killing and stealing and cheating and cursing, then why have these things gone on since the beginning of time? God doesn’t sit in the clouds, silently judging us for our deeds while doing nothing about it and neither does LOA.
Here’s the thing: There is no judgment. God (if you believe in a God) doesn’t judge. Neither does the Universe and neither does LOA. You get to want whatever you want, do whatever you want to do and no cosmic force will stop you, nor will you be punished for it in the afterlife. But why the hell not? And as Ismael asks, if that’s the case, then what’s to stop us all from becoming sociopaths and running around killing each other?
We’re not killers
What stops us from killing each other, en-masse, is not the fact that we’ve grown up with “morals”. If that were the case, then Neanderthals, who were born before morals were invented, would’ve just bludgeoned each other into extinction. And so would all animals, for that matter (animals kill each other, but not willy nilly. There is balance in the animal kingdom). What stops us is that we, at our core, are not killers. Far from it. We are love, pure and simple. Who We Really Are is pure love and is always calling us toward that love. This is why, when we turn away from love, loving others and loving ourselves, we hurt so much. The further we turn away from Who We Really Are, the more we suffer. And while the majority of humans have a ways to go before they vibrate at the frequency of Who They Really Are and are able to look at everyone and everything with pure love, most are close enough to find hurting others absolutely abhorrent.
We all have a conscience. Actually, most of us have two of them. One, we were taught. These are a set of things that are “wrong”, and which we’ve been taught to feel guilty about. This is the little voice that pipes up when you do something you’ve been taught that you shouldn’t. It’s full of shame and guilt and fear of punishment.
Then, there’s our REAL conscience, which is the voice of Who We Really Are. This little voice never tries to scare you (“DON’T do that, you’ll get punished!”). It operates on feeling. When an action would take you further away from Who You Really Are, it will feel awful. This is why, for most people, the thought of bashing someone’s brains in, makes them shudder with revulsion, even if they’ve seen it done on TV a thousand times. Who We Really Are does not inflict pain. We, at our highest level, are not a match to suffering or creating suffering. And the closer we are to our real selves, the louder that little voice becomes.
Why anyone ever hurts anyone
Ismael mentioned in this question that he’s seen “individuals who have purposely gone around being malicious to others.” If we, at our core, are pure love, how does it ever happen that anyone hurts anyone?
Those who hurt others are nowhere near the vibration of Who They Really Are. Hurting others only becomes a viable option when you’re coming from a place of supreme powerlessness. When you feel that you have no power at all, hurting someone else actually makes you feel better. Power over another feels better than no power at all. And of course, if that individual has been taught by their family/society/culture that violence is an option (or possibly the only option), then the potential for that violence increases dramatically. Powerlessness coupled with a belief that violence is an answer leads to some the worst of what human behavior has to offer.
You can’t pass off the pain
Individuals who hurt others are often stuck in a cycle of pain. They’ve usually been hurt themselves. The most violent offenders are often the victims of violence. Child abusers have usually been abused themselves. An alcoholic father, steeped in a feeling of powerlessness, cruelly tortures his son in order to feel some relief. The relief is temporary, of course, since putting pain out into the world only ever serves to hurt ourselves and keeps us stuck right where we are (and can even send us deeper into despair). His son, in turn, is made to feel equally as powerless by the abuse and, having been shown no other options, adopts the belief that violence against others provides relief. It’s the only outlet he knows. So, as he grows up, he finds relief in bullying others, hurting those who are weaker than him, and goes on to hurt his own children. Perhaps, hearing the faint call of Who He Really Is, he’s able to feel the supreme discord of his actions, and decides to not physically abuse his own kids, passing on only the verbal barbs. Or perhaps, his desire to feel better is so strong, he runs away, and manifests a kind adult who shows him a better outlet for his rage. He learns to feel true relief by moving towards love and surpasses the need to hurt others completely.
When his father was beating him, he was trying to relieve the pain he was feeling himself. But you can’t pass off the pain like a baton. When we inflict pain on another, we are not passing our suffering to them, leaving us with none. We simply create more suffering.
The problem is that when we look for retribution, we are also trying to pass off our own pain. We are hoping that by making the perpetrator pay, we can pass our pain to them, or at least lessen it. But that’s simply not how it works. Inflicting suffering hurts the victim AND the perpetrator. And as I already covered in the post on forgiving others, we cannot force the other person to “know what they did” or understand our point of view.
So, is it “ok” to go out and hurt others?
Ismael goes on to ask “…how come it’s not ok for me to start trouble just for fun?” My question to that would be: Why would you want to? Unless you’re stuck in supreme powerlessness yourself, hurting others wouldn’t be fun. It would make you feel horrible. Again, the question pre-supposes that, if left to our own devices, we’d all go crazy and hurt each other and the only reason we don’t is because someone has deemed it “wrong”. The truth is, the more self-aware we become, the less viable the option of hurting others becomes. And even when we feel powerless on some issue, the mere fantasy of retribution is enough to shift us. We release our anger by briefly thinking about inflicting revenge, allowing us to shift to a better feeling perspective without ever even coming close to acting on those thoughts.
So, even if the Universe doesn’t judge you (and honestly, has this deterrent ever actually worked??), do you really want to hurt someone? Even if someone else out there is doing it? The question for me is not “Is it ok to hurt others?”, but rather “Do you really want to?”
Surpassing the need to hurt others
I truly believe that a society filled with fully self-aware people would be a society with very little or no violence (possibly a slapping here and there…) Those who understand their own power to manipulate their realities, who understand their full responsibility for what comes into their lives and how to change that, and who understand that we are all connected and that inflicting pain on another only hurts the whole and most of all the individual inflicting the pain, would not even consider hurting someone else. And not because it would be illegal or immoral, but because the idea of it would simply not even occur to them (even if it did, it would feel so off, they wouldn’t consider it).
But in order to surpass the need to inflict suffering on others, we have to surpass judgment. What do I mean by that?
Only when we truly understand how violence and the need to hurt someone comes about, and when we can feel true compassion for those who have hurt others, can we stop the cycle of pain. Judging someone, seeing them as broken and evil, inflicts a type of suffering on them, as well. We give energy to the version of them that’s stuck in powerlessness. We perpetuate their situation, rather than helping them to pull out of it. When we surpass judgment, the need to see something as right or wrong, and understand that there is only that which moves us closer to love and further away from love, and then do our best, individually, to move towards love, we add positive energy to the world in three ways:
1.) We serve ourselves by letting go of limiting thoughts that don’t serve us. Whenever we look at anyone with condemnation, it takes us away from love.
2.) We serve the perpetrator by shining a light on Who He Really Is, giving him a better chance of finding his way back to love.
3.) We serve the whole (physical and non-physical) by adding to love. Whenever we raise our own vibration, we raise the vibration of the whole just a bit.
So, if someone punches me in the face, I should just love them?
I understand that the last section was a bit out there. Theoretically speaking, of course it sounds great to love thine enemy and all that. But what about the real world? If someone punches me in the face, should I just love the punchy bastard? Well, yes and no. First, I’d get the hell away from him. Second, I’d work through the feelings of rage and revenge and powerlessness stemming from having been punched in the face and work my way into a better feeling place. Third, I’d figure out how I attracted this experience in the first place, and THEN I’d send love to the puncher.
I’m also not advocating never locking anyone up. The fact is, we are not yet living in a completely self-aware society. So, if someone is going around killing others, I’m all for getting them off the streets. While I don’t believe that punishment does any good at all, I’m certainly not a fan of spreading more suffering around. I would then, however, advocate rehabilitation for the perpetrator, in the form of therapy designed to teach him how to relieve his pain without inflicting suffering on others and to raise his vibration, allowing him to surpass any such need. I advocate taking those actions that move us closer to that vision of a free and peaceful society (which will not be brought about by force or retribution) instead of those actions born of fear and the need for revenge.
And just in case anyone out there is thinking “That’s all fine for you to say. You’ve never been victimized”, let me assure you that I’ve had my share of suffering at the hands of others. In spite of that suffering and perhaps in part, because of it, I’m sitting here today, advocating unconditional love and asking you to do the same.