We’ve all felt it. We’ve been betrayed, cheated on, lied to, and hurt. So, our mind starts conjuring up ways to get back, to get even, and to get one up. It’s probably a common human emotion. But is it wise?

Way back when I was in college, I had to read “Vanity Fair,” by William Makepeace Thackeray (note his middle name – was that a sign?).  The only thing I actually remember about the book was the line, “Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.”  It’s a little disturbing why that quote still resonates with me. Do you think it’s because I’m a divorce mediator?  Was that also a sign?

I am not proud to admit that I’ve sought revenge against an ex or two in my lifetime. I’ve also witnessed way more heinous acts of revenge committed by others. I’ve seen cars keyed, credit cards charged up to the limit, photos cut into tiny pieces, and a beloved pet given away to strangers. And that’s just in my personal life.  Professionally, I’ve seen photos of bedroom walls containing freshly painted obscenities, and f-bombs carved into antique furniture.  A client once told me there’s a company based in San Francisco that will deliver a dozen dead roses. Can you imagine? Just google “revenge on an ex,” and you’ll find photos of clothing set on fire, luxury cars ruined, billboards announcing infidelity, and more.  It’s both funny and sad.  And while revenge may be considered natural in some circles, I don’t think it’s terribly healthy.

It’s obvious that our emotions about the end of a relationship are very powerful. Feelings can easily run the gamut from abandonment to rage, from betrayal to hatred, from sadness to fury, sometimes faster than we can identify them. Divorce litigation only adds fuel to the fire, because opposing counsel can make it worse by giving even more cause for anger and hurt. I believe the most important thing about these complex emotions is to understand the need to express them, whether to a friend, or a therapist, or better yet, to a mediator. (Please forgive my shameless plug.)  While a friend will be unconditionally supportive, a therapist might choose to delve into the history behind those feelings and why the relationship has come to an end.  On the other hand, a mediator will help to validate the feelings with an eye towards moving forward.

To be clear, revenge is a step backwards. It has nothing whatsoever to do with justice. Unless you’re a judge, you really have no right to issue punishment on another adult. Instead, why not use your potential, your humanity, your smile, your greatness, and your success to propel you forward? Leave it to the universe, to karma, to fate, to God.

Let go of the urge for revenge.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” — Mahatma Ghandi