Money is not the Best Revenge

Neither is fame. So what trumps both?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The internet has led to some curious human behaviors whereby we have taken to selling off our privacy online against clicks and bucks. Day in, day out, we delve into our most intimate pain and offer it up for public consumption, one shocking revelation at a time. We justify our ways by calling it writing and posit that if folks didn’t want to end up in print then they should have been nicer to us in the first place.

Now that we all have a platform, we can eviscerate the miscreants and exact revenge by making them pay for pulling a thread out of our ideal narrative. It’s their fault we’re in the mess we’re in. They held us back, they hindered us, they hampered our efforts to live a decent life. Our litigious mentality dictates it is only fair we should now seek damages with interest. And so we sit here totting up all those times when we felt embarrassed, when someone treated us poorly, when someone subjected us to humiliation. Deep down, under all that veneer of honesty and authenticity, we’re not very nice people and we’re not hugely clever either.

Have individualism and capitalism dehumanized us so much we now believe money has a soul and a conscience?

The idea of revenge is absurd: Why inflict injury in return for an injury when you could turn that injury into a lesson on how to be a better human? Stagnate or grow; we can expand our consciousness to accommodate new ways to be or sit in the cesspool of spite until we dissolve. It’s not the ones who wronged us who hold us back, it’s us: We choose to give the past more attention than the present. We’re still stuck in the past because we cannot let go of the hurt, of the pain, of the searing shame of failure so we sit and contemplate it at length. Now that we can spin it into clickbait for money, well, why not?

But does this kind of emotional labor help us more forward or are we at risk of pawning our current mental health to get paid? And why do we hang on to the need to hurt people years after the facts? What we focus our attention on grows; there can be no healing unless we keep moving forward until we’ve put a healthy distance between then and now. We don’t bear grudges, grudges bury us or cause us to self-destruct as we lose control of our senses and emotions a little more each day.

Why poison ourselves with things that happened and we can’t change?

Lest we forget, money is neutral and has no personality; it is a bartering tool that enables us to exchange commodities. It also goes to our heads when we spot opportunities to grab more than we need in the pursuit of fame and fortune, because, as the saying goes “That’ll show ‘em.” The “em” being, presumably, all those people who put us down and never believed in us and never loved us and never gave us a chance. Sometimes, “em” gets so huge it becomes the entire world, a faceless, amorphous malevolent mass we have convinced ourselves is against us.

Susceptible much? Most of us are too busy caring about ourselves and what we get up to in our life is for us to feel good or bad about. Unless we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give others a damn good reason to care with a tiny wisp of an idea. That tiny wisp of an idea renders revenge and all its substitutes obsolete, including money, and even redeems past pain.

If we let it, clandestine gentleness will crack us open until love spills out.

Despite broadcasting our lives online 24/7, if there’s anything we don’t show others enough, it is heart. Imagine if our social media feeds were about the magic of ordinariness, discovery, appreciation, and ideas. Imagine if instead of this constant clamor for clicks and bucks we had intense conversations about how to spread love. Imagine if we put our experiences, hearts, and minds together to come up with something more life-changing than the proceeds of outrage?

What have we got to lose by setting our egos aside and asking ourselves how we can make sure that what happens to us doesn’t happen to anyone else? We share our stories so others might know the signs, we share our stories so others might draw strength from the knowledge that life goes on and changes.

Love is the signal that rises above the noise but sometimes, we need to sit still and shut up until we hear it; resist the grudge urge.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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