Watching interactions between competitive individuals, children and adults, is always fun. Two recent scenes that played out reminded me of the pointlessness of retribution. The visible motivation is negative – let one side inflict the greatest hurt on the other. In the absence of anything positive, the motivating factor is an event from the past.
In child terms, it is almost always personal – my hand or an instrument of my hand is going to cause you pain. One do not need words. It is simple, direct, and often totally transparent.
In adult terms, words and working through others come into play. If I was to paraphrase, several condemnations would have echoed a psalm; “May the bank foreclose and wipe him out, and strangers, like vultures, pick him clean.” (Psalm 109.11)
Even as I find myself considering retribution, I can hear the reminders of what I have seen.
When one steps back and considers the story that includes all of us, retribution is often a nuclear option with unintended consequences. The poor choice of another yesterday can be our choice tomorrow. The inadvertent slip-up by one is a warning sign of where we will fail.
Acts with negative intent hurt receiver and giver alike. I find that it eats at my heart, even when I believe it is justified or required. I have yet to see something positive emerge. The source of one’s pain that gave birth to the need to act is not diminished. It is as if I am telling myself I am evil.
With the kids, I watched a tit for tat escalate. Retribution followed by more retribution followed by a childlike war with no purpose. As I watched I wondered if either side had any idea what he was fighting for or why.
As I watched the adults, I saw children that had never learned replaying their childhood with little thought of what was going to happen. We heal more slowly as adults. Injuries hurt more, lost longer, and often had unintended impact on those around us.
Now is time for healing, not revenge.