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On the Contrary

I once wrote a story about a girl who discovered a “talent” she had at age 10. It was a talent that enabled her to use dolls to bring about physical pain. Despite the negative effect of her gift, her peers praised her for it and she liked the attention. This story ends with the already 17-year-old girl being bullied and cast aside in college. The pain and humiliation she suffered in school made her succumb to the “talent” she first discovered seven years ago, this time not for praise, but solely for pain.

After reading it, my roommate said, “It’s a good story. We don’t hurt people for the sake of hurting them, but sometimes, we hurt people and we like it.” This comment made me think about all the times I lashed out at people when I was suffering in the past. I thought about how easy it was to give anyone a glare when I was in a terrible mood or snap at people who talked back at me; And I thought about how justified I felt in hurting others, especially when they’d hurt me first.

Coming across people who would step on us, crush us, and rip us apart is perfectly natural. Some might even say that it’s unfair how others get to ruin our souls and the rest just have to “sit still” and be ruined. Admit it, all of us have met at least one person who does nothing but call everyone dumb, ugly, and abnormal; at least once or twice we’ve imagined ourselves strangling that person. I really can’t blame anyone for returning the favor and calling it “payback.” After all, we all have limits whether it’s physical or emotional, and once these limits are reached, revenge starts to sound really good.

These are not things I am proud to admit; and they’re not things I’d recommend or condone. We all have a responsibility to learn healthier ways to cope with these challenges. Although I suspect if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us can identify moments when we acted thoughtlessly from a place of sorrow or anger. There are simply times when our burdens are too much. Most of us have felt pain burning like a hot coal in our hands and felt very desperate to somehow unload it in any way possible, anywhere possible.

I don’t appreciate being called an idiot, and I know I don’t deserve it. Just like none of us deserve misdirected rage from a family member, coworker, or stranger. No one deserves to be bullied, or cast aside, or humiliated by anyone. More importantly, no one has the right to act superior and talk down on other people.

We have a right to set boundaries and communicate when something is not okay. But the world is a better place when we choose to do that from a place of love and compassion, instead of righteousness and judgment. While revenge might become very tempting, never grab hold of it. We all act thoughtlessly at times. It’s somehow carved in our humanity. Most often we don’t mean to hurt each other. We just don’t recognize it or remember how to stop hurting ourselves.

The fact is, first, people will hurt us no matter what. Second, hurting them back feels justifying; and third, it only feels justifying, but it really isn’t justice. Simply forgiving them is still much better. After all, no one hurts people for the sake of hurting them.

Double Negative
Kathryn Ged Ballesteros

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