“I Don't Get Mad. I Get Even.”


This thinking error actually doesn’t make sense, because the only reason a person would decide to get even is if they got mad.  But with this mentality, people focus on their anger instead of finding a solution for the problem that set them off. They try to avenge themselves by retaliating in kind, to the same degree as what happened to them. In other words, they find something they can do to the other person that will anger or hurt that person just as much as they have been angered or hurt. If they decide to extract retribution in a violent manner, when they destroy property or harm the other person, they will keep that person focused on their anger too, instead of the real issue.

People who are more vengeful tend to be motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status. They will say “I don’t get mad; I get even,” to intimidate others. It’s an enforcement technique employed to guarantee cooperation. The intimidator always “wears the pants” in the relationship. Intimidation through any kind of threat is to teach others that they don’t matter and their needs don’t matter. The intimidator lays down the law and expects you do whatever they want. If you don’t, you should expect to suffer the consequences.

The threat of revenge may also serve as a form of self-protection, to make sure others don’t get to them first. But the fact is, people who try to control others through vengeful acts are usually out of control themselves. Back and forth retribution, attack and counterattack, getting trapped in a circle of retaliation can destroy the lives of all involved, both from a personal and a legal standpoint.

If you ask someone why they are seeking revenge, they're likely to tell you their goal is catharsis. But instead of giving satisfaction and closure to the person(s) who “got even”, revenge actually keeps the wound open and fresh.

Getting even isn’t a legal or moral issue as much as it is a spiritual issue.  The uniqueness of Christianity should stand out in the way we treat our enemies. But sad to say, even in the church, the vigilante spirit is still alive and well. Christians sometimes attempt to sanctify their anger and urge to get even by calling it righteous indignation, and we have all been tempted to retaliate against those who mistreat us. Paul's teaching about this in Romans 12:17-21 is not popular, because it runs contrary to the inclinations of our flesh.

However, remember that God’s thoughts are above ours and His ways are above ours. It is only by His strength that we can live as He requires. With God's mind-set, instead of seeking revenge, we will do good to our enemies, looking for the most practical ways we can help them.

1. What does the Lord say about using revenge to settle a matter?
  a) Romans 12:19
  b) Matthew 5:38-39
  c) Ephesians 4:26-27
  d) Leviticus 19:18
  e) Ezekiel 25:17
  f) Hebrews 10:30
  g) 1 Peter 3:9
  h) Proverbs 24:29
  i) 1 Thessalonians 5:15

2. What does Luke 6:27-28 tell us to do when people have hurt us?

3. Luke 6:35 goes even further, and says

4. Instead of getting even, what should we be doing? (Mark 11:25)

5. What will be the result if we show mercy to someone who has hurt us? (Matthew 5:7)

6. Many people have ruined their health and their lives by hanging on to the poison of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness, and plotting revenge. Read these scriptures, and tell who in the Bible gave us great examples of forgiving their enemies, and what had been done to them?

7. If there is revenge on our minds and unforgiveness in our hearts when we start to pray, what should we do first?
  a) Matt. 6:14-15, Mark 11:25-26
  b) Matthew 5:23-24

8. How would you counsel a person operating under the “I don’t get mad. I get even” thinking error?

Continue to Chapter 16

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