Do not testify against your neighbor without cause,
or use your lips to deceive.

Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me;
I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”

Proverbs 24:28-29

When I tell couples that they should not take revenge on their partner, they often look at me like I’m from outer space.  “I’d never take revenge.”  Their idea of “revenge” is Rambo mowing down the Vietcong.  But revenge in marriage is much more subtle, but every bit destructive.

Revenge can be for little things and big things.  Sometimes the little one’s are harder to overlook than the bigger ones.  The little inequities.  She spent too much.  He rolled his eyes.  She got testy.  He said, “What?”  She comes back with “Whatdoyoumeanwhat?” and off they go to the battle, each blaming the other.  “You pushed my buttons!”  “You’re always so negative.”  “All you do is complain.”  “You’re depressed all the time.”  “Lighten up already.”

Or, instead of them getting into a tiff, one or both shuts down.  They bear the burden of the hurt, but won’t let it go, quietly seething within.  These couples are often even worse off than the couples that go at it.  Why?  Couples who go at it might be able to get some of the hurt out in the open.  At least they are trying to work on things, however unsuccessful.  Couples that quietly burn inside?  They build up walls of resentment and hurt and anger:  I’ll keep you out so you won’t hurt me.

Little do they know that you can’t keep up a wall without becoming revengeful.  That’s the crux of our proverb for today.  You hurt me, I’ll hurt you.  And I’ll feel justified in the process.  If you wouldn’t have hurt me first I would never have:

-rolled my eyes
-scoffed at you
-left the room
-ignored you
-pushed you away
-cut you off
-gone into my shell

These behaviors lead to chaos and relationship breakdown.

Revenge says: you hurt me, I need to hurt you back, now you need to hurt me back, now I have to hurt you worse back, now you need to hurt me worse back and it never stops and the hurt and the hurting escalates until there is no peace and somebody figures I have to leave this marriage in order to have peace.  And then they get married to someone else and they still haven’t learned to be nice when their spouse is mean and the cycle starts all over again and these marriages break up in spades.

But if ONE of them didn’t hurt back, the chain of hurt would stop.  Someone has to stop the hurt.  It may as well be me.  Another proverb says:

A gentle answer turns away wrath.

Proverbs 15:1

This is the opposite of revenge.  You hurt me.  I don’t hurt you back.  The hurt stops.  Now we can heal.