Getting even

Getting even

I am a big proponent of “letting go,” as an essential practice in living my life as a practice. That’s a very challenging thing to do when you grow up in a world that teaches you that there are people who are bad and wrong, and where there is no distinction between the behavior and the person exhibiting the behavior.

Do a bad thing? Then you’re a bad person.

For me, the best example of letting go vs. getting even was a guy I hired at considerable expense. I continued to make my payment instalments even as he fell behind in delivering and from the moment the last payment was received the level of service dropped and dropped till it had come to a virtual standstill.

Communication became unreliable and infrequent to the point where I could no longer manage the project which for me at the time represented my livelihood. To this person it was just one of several projects and one which was no longer producing revenue.

This left me with feelings of betrayal, getting even, revenge, fear etc. and at some point I realized that I get to choose. I get to choose how I respond to any given situation. Respond as distinct from react.

So I guided my thinking as follows:

I have limited time and money. I can choose to spend it going after this person (there is a contract), or I can document the learnings and move on. There is a lot I have learned from this experience, plus it’s possible I can still build from what I have so far.

I chose the latter, yet for a while I kept having these feelings of wrong, hurt, injustice (it’s not fair), and even thoughts of getting even.

Guess who was suffering with those feelings? They were eating me up inside, and preventing me from fulfilling on my objective. This person had become a distraction. So what there was for me to do was forgive and move on.

Yes forgive the person.

You might ask why, and many people might argue that this rewards this behavior and increases the chances the person would “screw” someone else.

I forgave for two reasons:

First, I forgive the person for me, not for or because of anyone else. Carrying feelings of injustice and hate cost me energy. It was eating me up inside and also cost my time.

Second it’s an exercise in compassion. It comes from a way of looking at the world and at people. With few exceptions, no one acts from any inherent badness or goodness, but out of the conversations they have inherited from their surroundings, and/or from the conversations they are cultivating consciously. Most people only operate from the former.

This person was operating consistently with an unconsciously developed code of ethics. No judgment of good or bad, just different from mine. So the consequence to the person is exclusion from my networks of help, not as a punishment or a threat, simply a consequence. I will never use or recommend their services.

I get freedom to learn and move on completely unencumbered by this experience and this person gets to focus on what’s important to them without being distracted by an obligation that perhaps they no longer knew how to manage.

Photo by The U.S. National Archives

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.