I’m no different than you are. I know the best advice I ever received, and you do, too! Something like that sticks in your head…or in your craw. So much depends on who told you, and when and where and why, and most of all, how.
For most of us, the How packs a wallop whether the advice is welcomed or hated at the time. Maybe Mom had our best interests at heart but was in a foul mood about everything because our brother (you know, the moron?) had wrecked the family car for the third time. Because Mom laid it on us instead of talking all sweet and nice, we resented every bit of what she said.
When we turn this best advice over, we find the kicker to it. OK, I remember the best advice I ever received. Did I do anything with it? Did I apply it in my life? Did you?
Let it Be
The best advice I ever received was Let it be. It came from a boss and wasn’t worded that way at the time. But it all boils down to one thing. In this world, there may or may not be justice for the cruel things that happen to people. But in the grand scheme of things, there will be, especially for the unremorseful. It does no good to cold-bloodedly plot revenge, a la ancient European. Revenge is a dish best served cold didn’t originate with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan or The Godfather. Its origins are obscure.
Revenge activities backfire on those who live that way and they curse future generations. That isn’t to say a father doesn’t have the moral right to avenge the rape of his daughter or the murder of his son by kicking the crap out of the gutless coward(s) who did it, even if he is digging his own grave.
The problem with vigilante justice, of course, is that sometimes the wrong person is punished, and even our screwed-up justice system has jailed the wrong people countless times. The guilty laugh and keep right on doing what they’re doing. If it weren’t for that, I’d buy the grief-stricken, horrified Dad the hobnailed boots myself, though if he’s a military veteran, he probably still has combat boots. Don’t tell him to let it be. Forgiveness never has to be instantaneous, anyway, especially not when the offense is egregious. In fact, instant or too early forgiveness sends the wrong message entirely to youth and other wanna-be criminals. See, it’s ok if I stab someone! Their family has to forgive me. No, it is not OK! And don’t count on “self-defense” to get you off either. That’s hard to prove, even when it’s the truth.
You may desperately want to see justice for one particular person or several before you die. Instead, you see them getting a slap on the hand for embezzlement, or a fat raise in spite of their discrimination or abuse, or re-election for another rotten turn at the helm. It goes on. And all the while you’re in turmoil, destroying your own health and life.
Patience gets us there.
I once saw myself going down the path of wanting justice now after some truly miserable treatment. One day I realized I really might as well let it be, as advised. Not six months later, a woman who had viciously attacked me at work was fired. Five years after that, two female managers at another company got busted back to “Private” for essentially the same thing. Eight years later, an even higher-level manager at a third corporation was stripped of supervisory responsibilities for holding me back from several promotions. Some of you also know the feeling of having a target painted on your back!
It’s still very hard for me to let people make their own mindless mistakes that destroy them and their families. If they’re hurting someone else, I do sometimes butt in and try to help. But as far as changing the wrongdoer, nothing works. They have to suffer the short-term consequences. Even when forgiven by their victim(s), there are still long-term consequences to every decision anyone makes. Always. And without exception. My husband died 16 years before I had to bury him this year. The male scions know exactly what they did to break his heart. I will leave it to God to pass judgment and to decide how much of any slight remorse they might feel is even real.
The line of fools winds through every area of our lives and we adjust as best we can. The Holy Bible has plenty to say about fools and what they bring upon themselves but it also says we shouldn’t actually call anyone a fool (Matthew 5:22). So instead, I’ll say when a nincompoop is setting off fireworks in the neighborhood in the middle of our severe drought, I’m HAPPY when one of the muscular neighbors yells at him to stop. The guy’s response? “What? Why?” Do trolls really live in caves or under bridges? Nope. They may live right next door to you, or across the street.
Some situations are out of my hands as they are yours. It’s then I rely on Faith to get me through. I will be OK, in spite of the fiery darts of the Adversary or “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”¹ when we cannot “take arms against”² them. We have to let it be, while perhaps muttering, “Go thou, and fill another room in hell.”³
¹,² Hamlet, Act III, Scene I
³ Richard 2, Act V, Scene 5