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Forgiveness Over Retribution – Which Is Better?

Forgiveness Over Retribution - Which Is Better?

Most spiritual struggles happen in relationships. A statement that comes up time and again is: “All relationships are perfect. It is your resistance to accepting the relationship as it is. You identify personally with some aspect of the relationship, and therefore, you suffer.”

Often, we are hurt by the behavior of others. We might find ourselves asking: “How can they be so cruel, selfish, or dishonest.” But this is only in comparison to the expectation we ourselves have of how they should behave. 

The downward spiral begins when we need others to be who we want them to be, not who they are. We focus on their actions instead of on ourselves, but we cannot control what others do, think or say – we can only control our own emotions and thoughts.

We have two choices. We can be victims of someone else’s behavior and continue with a victim story, or we can decide that our sacred identity has nothing to do with anyone else’s actions.

Types of forgiveness,Retribution,Examples of retribution

The Harm Of Retribution 

The need for retribution when someone has wronged us creates a damaging cycle, especially in relationships. The injured party becomes obsessed with the need for retribution, driven by feelings of powerlessness and rage. ¹

Examples of retribution could be cheating on a partner who has previously been unfaithful, spreading malicious rumors about a former spouse or causing trouble for an ex who has moved on with someone new. The person on the receiving end of the retribution may feel the need to retaliate, and thus the toxic cycle goes on. ²

Examples of Retribution

These examples of retribution can also have toxic consequences for our bodies and minds. Holding onto anger, resentment and a desire for retribution leads to the body producing increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline whenever we think about the incident. A constant flow of these hormones can lead to stress and anxiety. ³

It takes time and spiritual practice to know who we are without the constructs of society, family, and culture. That is why I emphasize that, despite the copious bodywork we receive or hours of meditation we sit in, we must still work with an inquisitive mind to determine what is true for us.

One of the most common questions I get from clients is: “How can I let them get away with that behavior?” My response always remains the same. It is not what they have done, because if we continue to relive that story, we stay a victim pinned in it.

Buddha once said: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” ⁴ When we lash out or seek retribution against someone who has wronged us, we are weighed down by elements of shame. We harm ourselves, not them.

Types of forgiveness,Retribution,Examples of retribution

The Power Of Forgiveness

Justice is found in how we rise above negative situations, despite the actions of others, and become beautiful people. Being the person in the story that we wish to become, rather than an actor in another person’s insanity, promotes our own self-respect and wellbeing.

Santa Monica-based marriage and family therapist Dr Andrea Brandt surmises: “By forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it. Forgiveness isn’t something you do for the person who wronged you; it’s something you do for you.” ⁵

Types of Forgiveness

Types of forgiveness don’t even have to involve the person who has wronged you directly. Making the decision to forgive within yourself can be enough, releasing you from the anger and bitterness you feel towards that person.

Self-forgiveness is also an important type of forgiveness. When we feel guilty about things we have done that we regret, it can lead to negative self-talk and the inability to move forward.  Before we forgive others, we must try to forgive ourselves. ⁶

The ultimate goal is to be whole, grounded and untethered to a story that remains less than divine. We may not be able to control the situations we find ourselves in, but we can always choose how we respond. That is the sanctity of the power of creation that beats within us.

By Laurette DeJulian

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