This weekend I caught Oxygen\’s My Big Fat Revenge. My curiosity was piqued in part because I love a good \”makeover show\” where people grow and develop themselves for the better. (Also, in part because of some backlash I had read.) Albeit weight was not my major issue, I do know what it is like to be bullied for simply being \”different\” and this made me gravitate toward the show even more. (Haven\’t we all secretly harbored revenge fantasies for all our bullies?) So, I caught the episode with Jen and Tamar and took away a totally different perspective than what I had anticipated.
First of all: Does revenge really make you any better than the person who hurt you?
Someone torments people so tormenting them right back is the right way to handle the situation? The short answer: Nope. You\’ve heard the saying \”two wrongs don\’t make a right\” and that kept echoing in my head as I watched the episode.
\”Handsome is as handsome does\” so bullying the bully makes you a bully, too. (Say that five times, fast) This is especially true in the case of Jen-who sets out to humiliate her former boyfriend. At the end of her segment she asks him how it feels to be with someone who is ashamed of him. And although he doesn\’t admit it, we know it feels awful. We\’ve all been there! But what was proven by giving the ex a taste of his own medicine? In my mind it simply showed that bullying is a learned behavior. Jen never would have conceived of trying to humiliate him had he not acted in an appalling fashion. And that bullying is a vicious cycle unless we consciously make the decision to stop.
Second: It\’s all about control, not closure
These contrived, required apologies are very empty or nonexistent (in Jen\’s case) and a last ditch effort at control over the situation and the other person. Bullies seem to have all the control, don\’t they? They make us feel small and like we\’ve lost our own sense of control and security. Requiring these apologies are just a power issue. It\’s a method of feeling in control and exerting power over others. That\’s why they felt that creating deceptive situations was necessary. The women were given power over the person who had wronged them and power over the situation.
This concept of \”closure\” also brought to mind a truly inspiring TED talk by Joshua Prager. I think you\’ll agree that if anyone deserves an apology, he does (at the very least). But guess what? He never got one and-amazingly-didn\’t spend the rest of his life seeking revenge. He was able to move on without those \”golden\” words:
Third: It\’s not about them, it\’s about me
More than once the words \”I deserve an apology\” were heard. It was like those \”golden\” words \”I\’m sorry\” would mean freedom. A halo of light would surround the two in conflict and suddenly the burden of all the pain of the past would be lifted. I imagined something similar to the scene from Disney\’s Beauty and the Beast when Belle finally professes her love for her Beast. Those words had transformational properties and he becomes human again. But no one\’s words have any such power in real life, do they? And why are the victims the beasts in this scenario? No person on this earth should ever have the ability to make any of us feel like a beast that needs some miraculous \”fix\” in order to be whole and worthy again.
As we saw with both Jen\’s ex and Tamar\’s mother, neither of them thought there was anything wrong with what they said and did. Their logic was skewed and their behavior was abhorrent. So, why would anyone allow these unloving people the keys to their self worth?
The true issue here is discovering and fixing the roadblocks to developing a healthy sense of self. No \”golden\” words from a bully can do this. In fact, holding onto that bully is just a crutch, an excuse. The only person who can facilitate your closure is you. It might not happen overnight and it might require a counselor and a personal trainer but the only person who can begin the journey is you.
Aside from the bullies in My Big Fat Revenge we were also given a glimpse into the wonderful people in these women\’s lives: an army of adoring family and friends for Jen and a sweet daughter and boyfriend for Tamar. Case and point this proves that even having hundreds of encouraging voices at your back cannot change your internal dialogue. That fix needs to come from inside.
What does the Bible say about wrongs and revenge?
\”But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…\” Matthew 5:44
This one is rough! Since when have you a felt a desire to pray for an awful sister-in-law? Or the coworker who is just a meanie? As hard as it is, these are some of the people we should be praying for. We might be the only ones.
\”Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.\” Psalm 34:14
They would totally deserve a taste of their own medicine, right? Wrong. That would just be perpetuating a wrong. It would also be allowing that bully to dictate your behavior. Once you stoop to their level, they have more power over you than you realize.
\”If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.\” Romans 12:18
This one is super-hard, too. It means dropping the pride and being your usual, pleasant self though tearing out your boss\’ hair or outright ignoring your brother-in-law seems like a better solution. As mentioned above, you just can\’t let a bully change who you are by becoming a bully yourself. But, yes, there are some situations where no contact at all is the best way to keep the peace and the sanity for all involved.
And those are my two cents. Hope you all have a peaceful week!