Without retaliation, evils would one day become extinct from the world.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will soon make the whole world blind.” That belief in retaliation certainly keeps bad things happening in families, in communities, in nations, and in the world.
Gandhi wanted to free
If we feel we have to do to someone what the evil have done to us, or worse, we give away our power. That other person is now ruling our life, and may later rule our children’s lives as well.
When the fighting wears down people enough, peace might come for a while. People wonder why they chose to fight when life is so much easier when they care for each other, and when they can walk freely on streets that used to be no man’s land. If the will to give up “an eye for an eye” is strong enough, the peace will last. Too often, however, the mistrust does not go away. A small incident – such as an argument in a bar - can start up the war again.
The desire for retaliation seems never far away, especially when it seems to have support from the Bible. Jesus said his teachings of love were to replace the Law of Moses. He told his followers to love their enemies and to do good to those who hurt them, but Jamaicans seem to prefer to follow the hate teachings of Moses.
Nelson Mandela had every reason to hate those who kept him in prison for 27 years. Like Gandhi, Mandela wanted to do what seemed impossible at the outset. He wanted to free a country where one group enjoyed life at the expense of another group. The white South Africans had all the power, and did all they could to ensure the Blacks had no power at all. They were shot down when they tried to march peacefully to resist unjust treatment., but later took up arms to defend themselves. Blacks tried to use Gandhi’s methods
Nonetheless, when Mandela walked out of prison as a free man, and white rule ended, Mandela insisted there should be no retaliation. He did not wish evil to continue under Black rule. He set an example by making peace with his own jailers, and with those who had mistreated Black people so badly and over so many years.
My grandniece, we will be tempted to hit back when others hit us, so as to give them a taste of their own medicine. Even as we do that, we need to realize we are giving away our power to those persons. The best we can do then is to re-take our power as soon as we can. We can step back for a while to think about what we want most of all.
Is our goal to hurt someone today and risk retaliation tomorrow? Is the loving thing to move away from that person (if we can)? Could we try to love ourselves so much the person’s words and actions cannot hurt us? Could we bring ourselves to understand that the other person is acting out of his own pain, and that his behavior has nothing to do with us personally? Could we re-focus on our goals rather than stay focused on the person’s conduct?
Taking the peaceful road is not easy, Zayda. It takes more courage than fighting back, and it certainly leaves us with less evil for even the new-born to deal with.
We can choose. So, like Gandhi and Mandela, let us choose to love and forgive.
Your shangazi Nothango (Yvonne)