When someone treats us badly, we often become preoccupied with them.
I understand this tendency because I have done it myself.
As a pastor for nearly 40 years, I have counseled enough people to know that I am not alone.
Many become bitter, but this nasty trap has the potential to destroy those of us who cannot overcome it.
The danger of giving into the temptation to be bitter can be illustrated by a humorous fictional story. A depressed woman was walking along a beach when she saw a bottle.
She picked it up and released a powerful genie who said, “You have released me from my prison. To show my gratitude I will grant you three wishes, and as a demonstration of my power, your husband will be given twice as much.”
The woman said, “I do not want to complain, but I am walking on the beach today because he recently left me for another woman.”
The genie replied, “Sorry.”
The woman shrugged and asked for $10 million. There was a flash and the money appeared at her feet.
At that instant, her wayward husband received twice as much.
The genie asked for the woman’s second wish.
She said, “Genie, I want the most expensive diamond necklace in the world.”
In an instant the woman was holding the gleaming treasure, but her husband had a necklace worth twice as much.
She asked, “Genie, is it really true that my husband has $20 million and a necklace twice as valuable as mine?”
The genie assured her that it was, and she made her final request, “Okay, genie, I am ready for my last wish, please scare me half to death.”
How do we handle relationships when someone has hurt us deeply?
My senior pastor, Rusty Wirt, acknowledged that when we are tempted to seek revenge, living the Golden Rule can feel like injustice.
Despite that feeling, getting even is never the right course of action.
When we start acting like those who have hurt us, we become guilty of the behavior we find appalling in them.
Jesus calls us to a higher standard; in the Sermon on the Mount he said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!’” (Matthew 5:43-44, NLT)
While it seems natural to hate our enemies, God challenges us to pray for them and love them.
This does not mean bad behavior has no consequences; it means we are to leave revenge to God instead of trying to get even ourselves.
When we take revenge, we nearly always make things worse, but God can settle the score far more fairly than you or I.