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Monday, January 8, 2018

The Guide #1: The Thing About Getting Even

I was standing in the Pub at college having this conversation with a girlfriend whose boyfriend (an awful guy who went through girls like green beer on St. Patrick's Day at a Catholic college) broke up with her,

Her: "I need to find the hottest guy on campus and hook up with him. When G sees me with this new guy, he'll realize what he lost."

Me: "And then what?"

She looked at me. "Then he'll see what he lost. That another guy likes me and he'll want me back."

Me: "But he's horrible to you. He's rough. He's a jerk to your parents  . ."

She cut me off. 'Yeah, but he broke up with me. If I get him back then I win." This guy, a popular jock was a jerk. He flirted with every one of us and once left a party without her because she looked fat that night. Getting him out of her life was a win. Getting even with him seemed irrelevant. 

I had a similar conversation to this one not long ago with a friend who had a bad Christmas. His mom doted on his sister. She always had. For Christmas their mom made her daughter her favorite foods and bought her pearl studs and a Coach purse she coveted. He received a subscription to a men's fitness magazine. Over coffee, he said "You are so lucky you're an only child. It's been like this my whole life. When I get married I am going to have the perfect spread for Christmas and not invite her. She'll see what it feels like." He wanted to find a girlfriend, get married, buy a big house and put on a huge dinner to show his mom what it felt like to feel less than.

I get this. I know this feeling. When you're hurt, when someone gets something you wanted, when you feel wounded, sometimes the first instinct is to think "I'll show them what it feels like!" The thing is, though, that you can become so myopic on this need to get even that you miss the wonderful things in life. Imagine getting the girlfriend and buying the house and decorating it for Christmas, for your one goal to be NOT inviting your mother because she hurt you. You miss out on the bliss of that whole process. 

I'll be honest. In high school I dated someone and when we broke up, I said to my best friend "Well, obviously I'll lose weight, meet the perfect guy and then show him what he lost." Knowing my weight was a sore spot for me, she softly said, "Lose the weight for yourself. Not to show some guy what he lost." In that moment, I realized she was right. that doing something to get even with someone is a terrible motivator. It's a negative reinforcement rather than a positive one. Maybe I should try to be a better person and not be so difficult along with getting healthier for myself.

Getting even reminds me of that adage "Wanting revenge against someone is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person." The idea of getting even may sound good in the heated moment but there is nothing positive about it. Let's think this through using my friend and his mom. So, he gets the girlfriend, then she becomes his wife and he makes a great life for himself so he can have Christmas and not invite his mom. Exactly how does that go? Does he call her up and say "Hey guess what, Mom? I'm having a huge party and everyone is getting great gifts but you aren't invited. HA! How does THAT feel?"

That just sounds so silly and petty. How much better would he feel to instead want to build a better life for himself, and then throw that Christmas dinner and INVITE his mother. How much better would he feel (as well as his mother, his future wife, his sister. . .) to come at the holiday from a place of peace rather than anger and resentment? 

A while ago I made a life decision that resentment, getting even, that whole thing is just a waste of time and energy. You can't be happy when you spend so much time plotting your way into making someone else miserable. Plotting your way to make someone happy, including yourself, now that's a good plan.

*To my friend that allowed me to use our conversation about he and his mom, thank you! xo!

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