Broken but Beautiful: Struggling with the Desire to Seek Revenge

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“Broken but Beautiful” is a weekly column by Faith Gor, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She shares her story and healing journey to offer hope to other survivors.

“Revenge is sweet to those who live; but when we think of death – the ebbing of this life-tide breath – ‘Tis sweeter to forgive.” – Mary E. Tucker.

My mother woke me up from an afternoon nap and after attending to her, I got enraged. I couldn’t understand why. I felt as though a heavy rock was laid on my chest. I could feel my heart’s palpitations and I started hyperventilating. I got flashbacks of painful memories, and I felt vengeful. My soul cried for justice.

“But why?” I cried out loud. “Lord, why am I feeling this way? I thought that I forgave him already. Why am I angry? Why do I want him miserable? Why did he hurt me? Why is he free? Why can’t he acknowledge what he did? Why can’t I just be free?” And hatred increased in my heart. “I wish I could cry,” I thought to myself, “but what will I be crying about?”

I sighed, picked my phone, and began browsing to numb my current pain, but that didn’t help. So, I sat up and tried managing my breath, but I felt some pain on my chest and that didn’t stop me. I paid attention to what I was feeling.

Then my mother called me again, and this time I got agitated, but it wasn’t her fault. I needed to attend to my hurting soul. I took a deep breath and gave her what she needed. Then I came back to the room, picked my phone, and thought of calling my therapist, but I wasn’t sure if I’d find her.

I called my friend Maya instead. I thank God she picked and after finding out how she was doing, I asked if she’d ever had an irresistible desire to seek revenge. Then she shared her experience, and I felt understood and hopeful. Maya said that she had struggled with revenge for a whole year.

I got curious and I asked how she’d managed that. She told me that she would intentionally avoid the offender, but that wasn’t easy. She mentioned that revenge is a normal feeling which every person gets, but the Holy Spirit can help us overcome.

I sighed and told her what I was feeling at that moment. She listened and reminded me that forgiveness is complicated. You might think that you have forgiven someone and made peace with the thought but still get enraged when you see or hear about them. I agree with her.

Forgiveness is messy. It means remembering the harm, feeling the pain but still choosing to forgive the person without excusing the offense.

In the healing journey of sexual abuse trauma, I have come to appreciate the feeling of revenge because it reveals to me areas that have not healed completely. See, harming the offender might give us temporal pleasure of control, but that will make us slaves to our emotions and will not heal the pain.

It is more rewarding to sit with those ugly, draining feelings, acknowledge the harm done to you, and present your case to God. This is because what you need is healing and harming the offender won’t bring that. Only God can heal our deepest wounds. Only God can set us free from the trap of vengeance. The painful memories may never go away, but God can give us peace and comfort in our pain.

Romans 12:19 (NASB) – Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

This verse gives me an assurance I could never get from anyone. You don’t have to be evil just because someone did evil to you. You didn’t deserve the evil done to you, and that does not define you. You can take back your power by choosing not to seek revenge. Choose to be authentic with God about your pain because He reveals to us what He wants to heal, and sometimes that appears as vengeful feelings.

Feelings of vengeance will come unexpectedly and when they do, acknowledge them, and remember that God has promised revenge on your behalf.

May you find courage to sit through the vengeful feelings and not cause harm.

Keep winning!

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