In the post-9/11 world, is revenge becoming as socially heralded as forgiveness once was? Since George W. Bush's remark that "either you are with us or against us" the possibility of rational debate has become less and less and enthusiasm for war has flowered. As enthusiasm for war grows, fanned by the militarist Bush administration, space for reasonable protest has dissipated to almost nothing--except Cindy Crawford, who continues to dog President Bush.At the 2004 Republican convention, nearly three years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, actor Ron Silver delivered an emphatic statement of American resolve. "We will never forgive.
We will never forget. We will never excuse," he said to the cheering crowd at Madison Square Garden.Many are disturbed by the emphasis on vengeance, which circulates more frequently in conversations and in the news. "Three years after 9/11, our nation is still breathing revenge and retribution," wrote Rev. Brian Suntken in a Charlotte Observer editorial.
"When will the true process of healing begin? When will our leaders, many of whom assert religious affiliation, lead our nation into healing and renewal?" The concept of healing and renewal seems foreign to many people. It is this divide--between forgiveness and retribution, healing and getting even--that shapes our country's foreign policy, our political discussions, and our country's spiritual framework.Religious scriptures advocate for both forgiveness and retaliation. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," [Exodus and Leviticus]. "Turn the other cheek," ?[Christian Gospel of Matthew]. "You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict those who evict you," [Qur'an].
But "I forgive those who do wrong to me," goes a hadith [The Prophet].Religious practice tends to emphasize forgiveness over retribution. "We should not seek revenge on those who have committed crimes against us, or reply to their crimes with other crimes," [the Dalai Lama] Many other religious giants of the past century--Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.
--taught non-violent resistance to evil.Scientific research confirms the healing effects of forgiveness. Everett Worthington, professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, found that people who won't forgive wrongs committed against them tend to have more stress-related disorders, lower immune-system function, worse rates of cardiovascular disease, and higher rates of divorce. People, who forgive, studies reveal, tend to live healthier and happier lives. "The Art of Forgiving" by Lewis B.
Smedes, "Forgiveness Is a Choice" by Robert D. Enright, and "The Forgiving Self" by Robert Karen are a few of the books on the benefits of forgiveness.Heretofore, revenge was like a too-loud relative whose dinner-table rants made everyone uncomfortable. But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has become more acceptable to express a desire for revenge. "I want revenge," a woman told The Washington Post soon after 9/11.
In The New York Times, columnist William Safire urged America's leaders to hit back hard: "We must pulverize them.".While the rawness of these feelings may have eased, the concept of revenge itself has become more acceptable.A Swiss report released last August made headlines around the world for drawing a connection between revenge and pleasure. A University of Zurich team scanned the brains of male participants who passed money back and forth in a neutral setting.
Those who made selfish choices instead of mutually beneficial ones could be punished by the other players. The researchers found that most players chose to exact some sort of revenge, even if it cost them some of their own money.The desire for revenge was strongest in those players whose brains exhibited the most activity in their pleasure centers.
Revenge, it seems, can be fun. And while that's hardly news, the study observed that the anticipation of this pleasure, and not necessarily justice, is in large part what drives us to seek revenge. In other words, we hit back hard because it feels good."The need to get even is universal," explained Washington Post reporter Laura Blumenfeld. Her 2002 book, "Revenge: A Story of Hope," tells the story of her confronting the Palestinian man who shot her Jewish father, a rabbi. While her father survived the attack, Blumenfeld was left scarred.
"Rather than trying to deny it, I wanted to try to figure out if there is a positive kind of revenge we can live with," she said. "We're all taught to forgive and turn the other cheek. But I was interested in revenge.
How can something be completely bad if we all feel it?".Blumenfeld's journey led her to Israel and then to the Palestinian territories, where she tracked down the man suspected of shooting her father. Instead of reconciliation and forgiveness, she wanted from him an acknowledgment that what he had done was wrong."What I found was that when he acknowledged that what he had done was wrong, there was a sense of peace and resolution," she said. "That's a very constructive kind of revenge. It's also a very American kind of revenge, a forward-looking kind of revenge that seeks to build up.
".Blumenfeld saw this same "forward-looking revenge" in America's response to the terrorist attacks."We had more than 3000 people killed on 9/11," she said.
"And we had a celebrity marathon to raise money for firefighters and victims. That's a very American thing to do with all that anger and energy. After 9/11, I felt I was going to see the ugly head of revenge in America. Mostly I didn't. I was surprised and proud.".
Notwithstanding, as the fight against terror broadens to include other countries, calls for revenge are becoming more common throughout the globe. The hostage-taking and eventual slaughter of hundreds of schoolchildren in Russia saddened and enraged that nation.Thousands of Russians took to the streets in protest, many ready to take up arms.
"Let's gather up all of the men in the villages and fight," shouted one Russian man, the Associated Press reported.The cliché "Revenge is so sweet," seems innocent, yet it perpetuates a disquieting and insidious cycle of revenge begetting revenge. If not now, when will the vicious insidious cycle be stopped?.The 'eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth' mentality goes completely against the grain of spiritual teachings.
The masters preach peace, and I'm compelled to look at my behavior and look at those places where I am at war. Forgiveness is very hard. Forgiveness is the business of spiritual growth.
"Forgiveness may be the business of heaven [spiritual growth], but it must not be given indiscriminately, says Arizona State University Professor Jeffrie Murphy, author of "Getting Even: Forgiveness and Its Limits." "I think forgiveness also requires repentance on the part of the wrongdoer." Instead, he said, the 9/11 attackers "thought they were being righteous when they crashed those planes.
".Murphy is also reluctant to take revenge and forgiveness out of the personal realm. "The only person in a position to forgive the wrongdoers, are the victims," he said.
Lorie Van Auken, whose husband Ken was killed on 9/11, along with several 9/11 widows, Van Auken was instrumental in getting the government to form the 9/11 commission.Explaining how her life had changed since the terrorist attacks, she noted, "I've become an activist. I went to Washington to demand an independent commission to look into [the failures of government agencies] from the White House on down," Van Auken stated. "It was like grabbing onto a high-voltage cable, the anger that you feel.
" Van Auken was clear that she wanted information and accountability, not revenge. "The difference is your reaction--do you kill innocent women and children, or do you pound on the door of your government?"..Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, author and international speaker specializes in: Mind, Body, Spirit healing and Physical/Sexual Abuse Prevention and Recovery. As an inspirational leader, Dr.
Neddermeyer empowers people to view life's challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening. http://www.drdorothy.
By: Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD