When I was growing up my mom used to say, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face!” I must confess that I didn’t really understand what on earth that meant. It did make me a little leery of doing something that might actually cause the severing of my nose from my face.
After 40 years of experiencing life I’m not sure there is a more destructive force on our happiness than spite.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
spite : a desire to harm, anger, or defeat another person especially because you feel that you have been treated wrongly in some way
Could someone really be so angry with their face that they would cut off their own nose in retaliation? Probably not, but I’ve seen people sacrifice their current and future happiness to cling to their spite from the past. The destructiveness to self is similar.
Can you imagine going through your daily routine while carrying a 15 lb dumbbell in each hand? To brush your teeth you’d have to take them both in one hand, throwing you off balance, to free up the other hand for brushing. At dinner you could attach a fork to one and use it to eat. It would be exhausting and frustrating. This is similar to what it’s like trying to go through your daily routine while clinging to spite. I only know because I’ve tried it.
True story. Decades ago I worked under a woman who lacked the skills to be an effective manager. Looking back I can see she was overwhelmed, flustered, and grasping at control. At the time it played out like a Hallmark movie with an evil, offensive, supervisor taking everything out on the sensitive peon. I was that peon. I took the abuse. I tried my best at the job, but as her lashing out at me increased, my anxiety also increased, and my productivity and motivation plummeted. There was no happy ending to this story. I take that back, the happy ending was when I joyously put in my two-weeks notice. I may have been humming “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” under my breath. The unhappy chapter of my life should have ended there. I should have set down my dumbbells and carried on with my life. But I didn’t. I
couldn’t wouldn’t let go of my anger. It wasn’t enough to be physically away from her, I wanted for her to suffer as I felt I had. I dreamed of getting revenge on this woman. I unconsciously looked for her vehicle everywhere I went that I knew might cross her path. The worst part was that I let my spite creep into new relationships. In my dealings with new co-workers and friends I jumped to conclusions, reacted defensively, and aimed my misplaced spite at them since I couldn’t get my revenge on the person I thought so deserved it.
That was a rotten, festering, time for my soul. I’ll never know how many beautiful moments I missed and how many relationships I harmed due to my unwillingness to let go of my anger and yearning to lash out from spite. My mother might even say that during those years I had cut off my nose to spite my face. For hadn’t I maimed and mutilated my own beauty and happiness? I certainly wasn’t harming the woman I so detested. I’m sure she had long forgotten my existence.
I wish I had known at a younger age that it is not the responsibility of others, no matter how much I think they have wronged me, to make me set down my anger and move on. It is only my responsibility. I chose to cling to those heavy dumbbells of spite even though they made my life every bit as difficult as I felt this woman had.
Unfortunately, carrying around spite doesn’t aid in weight loss or muscle toning the way carrying dumbbells does. So lets make the trade. Together we can drop the spite, pick up the dumbbells and be happy and fit together. Scratch that. Lets drop the spite, pick up the wine bottles and make some beautiful stories in our lives to replace the negative.