To continue the musings in my previous article on revenge, I remembered a story from many years ago.
In 2016, I was walking home on a Friday, having just been returning books to the library. As I walk, I see an elderly woman trying to get downstairs, carrying groceries.
I immediately offer her my arm and to carry the groceries for her.
She thanks me and I tell her she reminds me of my grandmother, who was also fiercely independent. I tell her that I miss my grandmother. She was not a kind lady, but she was very inspiring.
“Well, you’ll see her in heaven,” she says brightly.
I say nothing, trying to blink back tears. No, I won’t. And that hurts.
“You do believe in heaven, right?” she asks.
I tell her no, I’m secular.
She proceeds with a rant about how secular people have no morality and don’t even know the bible. “Were you even taught the Ten Commandments?” she asked in a superior tone, as this secular person with no morality is carrying her groceries with one hand and helping her down the street.
“In two languages, including the original,” I politely inform her. “I was raised Jewish.” I can rattle them off in full on-demand in Hebrew and English.
“Jewish people killed Jesus,” she said as we arrive at her car. “That’s why God punished them with a Holocaust.”
I feel the blood drain from my face. I had always known people hated Jews, I’ve felt hatred before. Still, every time I have felt that hate personally directed at me, it feels like I’m again losing my innocence that the world is a kind place.
Still, I behaved myself. I didn’t ‘accidentally’ drop her groceries. I didn’t lose my temper and tell her the world would be a better place when she was dead. I said nothing as I placed her groceries by the car so she could put them inside easily.
“Well, I hope you get home safely,” I just said, and walked away because I really didn’t want to talk more.
I was shaking with rage. My grandmother survived Auschwitz. This woman had taken my kindness and insulted her memory.
“I bet you wish you would have dropped her packages,” someone said recently when they read the story.
No, I really don’t. I’m glad I didn’t hurt her. Of course I admit that I fantasized about it. But what exactly would it have given me?
Would it really make me feel better? Maybe momentarily, but then she would have won. She would have only brought me down to her level and made me compromise my values.
Revenge is so tempting. You are hurt and you want to hurt them, to even the score and fix the scales of justice.
However, I think that attitude is incredibly silly. How would smashing her groceries “accidentally” be just?
Instead of looking back on that story with pride in my poise, I’d have been ashamed of myself.
I’m going to try to remember that the next time I fly off the handle.
I hope it helps.