There is not much in life that seems more natural than lashing out at someone who has insulted us, hurt us or otherwise irritated or inconvenienced us. It seems born to the species. Just watch what happens when one toddler snatches a toy or a piece of candy away from another.
Natural, yes. Even understandable. Productive? Rarely.
Escalations and retaliations, whether in the realm of kindergarten, corporate headquarters or in international relations, usually lead us into dark paths. And often with negative consequences for participants and bystanders.
When we heed the ancient advice to return good for evil, to forgive rather than resent, we actually help ourselves.
When we harbor anger and ill will, our bodies release a very potent substance called cortisol. Powerful stuff there. It can help the body respond to emergency situations with energy and strength… but there’s a price. Regular episodes of this release appear to be clearly correlated with reduced life expectancy. In other words, the stuff can kill you.
Solomon advised around three thousand years ago, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Proverbs 25:21).
It’s not necessarily our natural response, but it can be strangely satisfying. Solomon said it would really burn ’em!