If you know my work, you know that I condone anger and revenge. I know a lot of people are surprised by this, but I think there is a place for it, and the place for it is in the hands of the systematically oppressed. For the systematically oppressed, we are often told to choose love over retaliation. I, on the other hand, think that you use revenge and retaliation to clear the pathway for love. I don’t believe love can start from any point. I think there has to be a clearing and then love can thrive. I believe this because I’ve seen the results of jumping automatically to forgiveness without consequences. For the most part, it has allotted exploiters to believe there are no consequences to their actions. As a result, a lack of consequences individually and societally leads to unchecked abusers, exploiters, and the privileged.
Consequences are fair and that guilt you are feeling when you give consequences is programming. It’s programming by your religion, society, and your community. However, you the structurally oppressed are the only one who feels it. The white folks who harm black folks don’t feel guilt. The men who harm women don’t feel guilt. The people who harm the LGBTQ+ community don’t feel guilt. Folks who harm people with disabilities don’t feel guilt. So, why are you feeling guilty for reminding people that you aren’t a human punching bag?
Now, you may not agree with this and that is ok. I wanted to provide an alternative route to healing. This road takes you to forgiveness, but not before it stresses accountability and consequences. When you opt for this road, you have to be privy to certain drawbacks. The first being that sometimes people get stuck in revenge. Revenge can be intoxicating. When you right your wrongs, you feel empowered. If you’ve been disempowered most of your life, you get addicted to that feeling of empowerment. You start to use revenge as the energy that sustains you and unfortunately, that is unsustainable.
Or it can sway in the opposite direction and revenge can make you feel bad or low. You can become addicted to that bad feeling too, and get stuck in a loop of seeking out experiences that make you feel bad. These spaces can take you to a place where you never move to the next stage, forgiveness.
Secondly, revenge may lower your vibration. Some people work energetically, and revenge can take you into the muck. The key is to decide what is your limit before you act on revenge or anger. That way you know how far you will go. Lastly, revenge can get you in trouble. Revenge is sweet, but being locked up for it is bitter. Recording your actions, destroying property, and harming someone physically is never the route to go. Anger is creative, use it and in the words of Shanté Smith from Two Can Play That Game, “fuck this shit up.”
Once you opt for or out of revenge, you move to forgiveness. Forgiveness as defined by Oprah and Maya Angelou is “accepting that the past cannot change.” You aren’t accepting the behavior. You aren’t being responsible for their actions. You are accepting the event. Accepting that you cannot change it. Finally, you are accepting that this event won’t impact, shape, or destroy your present reality. It’s laying down that pain, knowing what it is, and deciding to walk forward with it off your back.
To forgive, you need to first know how to examine your past from the lens of information and not good vs bad. Folks review the past and breath themselves up about it. They start to make judgment calls and often you fall into the bad category. This is a fruitless activity. You aren’t good nor are you bad. You are a person who has experienced an event that you had no tools to properly deal with. Now look back on the places and events you needed your tools. Those places where you said yes and should’ve said no because those are the places where you need to develop your muscles. You need to work out your boundary muscle, your autonomy muscle, your getting in touch with your body and emotions muscle, and any other muscle that comes up when you review your past. Go through each person or event with a fine-tooth comb and figure out the places where you are underdeveloped. That is the act of forgiving yourself, with the goal of improving instead of shaming.
Shame and guilt are fruitless activities. Think about it, what can you actually do with shame or guilt? You don’t ever use it for good because you are too busy feeling bad about yourself. You can’t cash it in. You can let someone borrow it. All it does is tell you that you aren’t good enough, and we already know you are. So, call it a liar and move on with your day.
Next, you also need to process your emotions. Meaning, you need to feel them unregulated in the comfort of your own home. How can you know an emotion without feeling t? How can you know an emotion when you are suppressing it? Feel those emotions, feel them really good, breathe them out, call them out, and then lay them to rest. There may be times when you will need to do this multiple times and that is ok. Do it because feeling is natural, and it makes you human.
When I campaign for revenge, retaliation, and anger, I do so out of love- love for self, and love for others who are structurally impacted. My love wants consequences so that folks won’t be privy to harm others who the structures don’t protect. My love also extends to interpersonal relationships where power, privilege, and identity are at play. My love realizes that sometimes people misconstrue the word. Sometimes folks in power define it as acquiescence. My love says that it can also look like retaliation, restitution, justice, or fairness, which in my opinion can also lead to love.
“Love may lead the way, but anger can clear the pathway.”