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If you "grew up on Bible stories", you learned the "eye for an eye" concept. How is that to be put into effect in a spiritual practice that focuses on inner peace, forgiveness, and peaceful interactions with "all our relations"? Can "an eye for an eye" be interpreted in any way other than anger and revenge?
Before I answered my initial question: Is Revenge Spiritual?, I decided to look up "revenge" in the dictionary. One of the definitions is: An opportunity to get even.
Ah! Getting even. This has been a favorite for many of us for years. If someone hurts us, we think we must even out the score. But then if we follow that thinking further, the person that we have revenged ourselves upon will then feel the need to get even as well, and the circle goes on unbroken.
As said in Matthew: 16:26 (New Living translation): "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" So you may gain revenge, but have lost so much more in the process.
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What if we broke the link and started a new circle? -- one of love and compassion. If rather than "getting even" with anger and negativity, we "evened out the score" by applying a healing poultice of love and acceptance. Then, the person who received our gift of compassion would need to "get even" by sending love and acceptance as well.
Maybe "an eye for an eye" simply means that whatever "eye" you choose to look through (the eye of love or the eye of judgment), this is the same "eye" that you will be seen through in return. Thus, an eye for an eye, or an action for an action, or a thought for a thought, becomes a choice we make in each instant. Which do we want to return back to us? Love or "lack of love". Which "eye" shall we use to "judge" the situation. The eye of love or the eye of fear and anger?
Loving Thy Neighbor As Thyself?
For those of us who were taught the teachings of Jesus, we also learned "love thy neighbor as thyself". When I put the two teachings together, it becomes obvious that what I "give out" I "get back". If I love my neighbor, I get love in return -- both from my neighbor and from myself. If I am angry at my neighbor, then the anger is both outer directed and inner directed. If I have self-hatred, then I will also have hatred for my brother (or neighbor). If I believe in revenge, then I will give out revenge and get revenge back.
It can be a vicious circle. What you give out comes right back to you. But it can also be a wonderful circle. What you give out comes right back to you. The choice is ultimately ours. What we choose to hand out to others, whether it be a loving "I" or a revengeful one, is what we will receive in return.
Personally, I have experienced both -- and I'm sure you have too. The times that I have "given out" anger, resentment, frustration, vengeful feelings, and such, I have received the same in return. It did not turn out to be a pretty picture. Everyone grumbling, resentful, angry, moody, etc., myself included.
On the other hand, the times when I have chosen to deal out acceptance, peacefulness, and joy, then that has been returned to me as well. Sometimes it has taken time for the tide to turn, but it does eventually. If I keep my focus on generating "positive loving vibes" from my own being, then eventually that positiveness and love comes back my way.
If we seek inner peace as well as outer peace, we must first "give" what we desire to receive. If we desire love, we must give love. If we desire prosperity, we must share prosperity. If we desire freedom, we must allow freedom. If we want a life full of joy and laughter, we must share joy and laughter. If we want a life of peace, we must start within our own self, and watch it come back a thousand-fold.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Thus perhaps "an eye for an eye" and "love thy neighbor as thyself" are the same teaching. They are actually based in what we have discovered in modern physics: What goes around comes around. Nothing is ever destroyed. There is a cause for every effect.
Which cause will we choose? Which effect do we desire? These are questions that we must answer in every moment of our lives -- in every thought, every word, every action (or inaction) we take.
One instance where we withhold love and peace is when we try to control the others around us by our moods and attitudes. When we choose to be in a 'bad mood' this is a way of controlling the people around us -- by trying to make their day miserable as well as our own. Talk about treating your neighbor the way you treat yourself. The problem with that scenario is that it is another snake that has its tail in its own mouth -- one bad mood engenders another's bad mood, and so on and so forth. So while we may think we are only "being ourselves", we are actually polluting the air of the people around us. This is another form of revenge. "If I'm having a bad day, then, by golly, everyone else should have one too." Huh?
Punishing Others By Withholding Love?
Another way in which we apply revenge in our lives is when someone has said or done something which we have judged in some way -- as being stupid, arrogant, hurtful, etc. -- we will then "punish them" by withholding our love. As we treat the person with coldness or with a superior attitude, we create a field of "lack of love" which is then the energy we are surrounded with. Thus, again, the "eye" (the "I") we see through -- the eye of unforgiveness and superiority -- is the "eye" (the "I") that colors our whole perception of our surroundings. And it is the energy which is then again returned to us!
Maybe that is what revenge is? Whatever we put out comes back to us multiplied. As we see the people around us in shades of judgment and anger, then the people around us see us with the same shades -- and the feeling is returned to us.
However, we can use the Law of Cause and Effect to our own benefit. We first decide what effect we would like (a life of happiness, peace and joy) and then start taking the actions (as well as thoughts and words) that will lead to that result. We can create the spiritual reality we desire by choosing the spiritual qualities we desire in others and then put them to practice in ourselves -- before we see them in others.
It's a big job, but somebody's got to do it! And that somebody is each and everyone of us. Yes, that's me and that's you. One by one, we can change the world. It has to start with us first before we can expect the "others" to change.
It's so simple. What are we all waiting for???
Love is the Answer: Creating Positive Relationships
by Diane Cirincione and Gerald G. Jampolsky. MD.
A pioneer in the field of attitudinal healing and author of Out of Darkness into the Light, One Person Can Make a Difference, and Teach Only Love, as well as the classic bestseller Love Is Letting Go of Fear, Dr. Gerald G. Jampolsky has transformed the lives of millions of men and women through his work. In this companion volume to Love Is Letting Go of Fear, Dr. Jampolsky and Diane Cirincione outline the Seven Stepping Stones of inner health.
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About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com