The Dangers of Getting Even

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic

Q

My husband gets angry so easily and always blames it on the other person. He defends his actions by saying, “I’m just doing what they did to me.” While he may be right, I don’t like his actions and think they just fuel his fire. What do you suggest I say to him?

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A

Sadly, your husband is trying to do what so many others do — “get even.” Too many people believe they have the right to do this because the other person did something wrong to them first. They believe they are enacting justice by evening the score. This is often a hard justification to penetrate.

Why are we so inclined to “get even”? Here are a few reasons:

  • We believe we have been treated unfairly.
  • We believe there is a “right” way to behave and if others violate this code of conduct, they should be corrected.
  • We believe we are self-righteous and others are not.
  • We gain some self-satisfaction in meting out deserved punishment.
  • We believe it is our duty to teach others a lesson.

 

Can you see your husband in any of these distorted beliefs? Is it possible he labors under these thinking errors? If these patterns are ingrained, changing his behavior will be difficult. Nonetheless, it can be done.

Let’s explore what it will take for your husband — and the rest of us — to adopt a healthier pattern of thinking and behaving.

Practice the Golden Rule. It’s natural to think, I can get even with them because of what they have done to me. But that isn’t what God’s Word — and wisdom — suggest. Scripture tells us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Notice this verse does NOT say, “Do to others what they have done to you,” as many might wish. Rather than get even, we are told to treat others the way we’d like to be treated. This is the path to good mental health, good relationships with others, and even a good relationship to God.

Practice adding insight to injury. Someone has said that one of the best tools for changing your behavior is to think. Yes, something as simple as stepping back and reflecting can alter your perception of a situation — and, subsequently, how you react.

Practice not taking things personally. Taking things personally can cause so much damage. You’re likely to feel bitter if you believe others are trying to harm you. When you realize “stuff happens” and these actions are not designed to make your life miserable, you can then let them go. It’s not all about you!

Don’t add fuel to the problem. When you slip into “road rage” or other vengeful actions, you fuel the fire. Getting even only perpetuates the problem. Now, instead of a small emotional flame, you’ve created a bigger emotional fire. Don’t do it. Step back and take a breath. Then put away that gasoline can of vengeance.

Count your blessings. Consider what is going right in your world. Undoubtedly you have many blessings for which you can be thankful. You can choose to slip into grousing about how something has gone wrong, or you can choose to count your blessings. The latter is far more enjoyable than the former.

Forgive. So many studies — not to mention Scripture — make a strong case for forgiveness. Not only is forgiveness a biblical mandate, but it makes for good mental health. As strange as it may sound, wish good things on the person who has hurt you. Look for the good in the situation and what you can learn from it.

Model forgiveness. If you’re around someone who becomes easily irritated, step away from them. Make it clear you not only will not join them in their revenge, but will distance yourself from them. Revenge is toxic and you cannot be around it. Let them know you care about them but cannot be near them when they are in that frame of mind.

In summary, while “getting even” gives temporary satisfaction, it also creates long-term stress. Consider being a person who sends love and care to others and watch how that love and care will come back to you. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It works.

If you would like more information on relationships, as well as living a stress-free life, I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions. Contact me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com. I encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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