Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Think about the Difference between Self-Defense and Revenge

In a Facebook group, people got to talking about whether it's 'black magic' to try and facilitate some kind of 'karmic backlash' on someone. It seems to me that a lot of Wiccans will automatically chime in with the 'don't harm/it'll come back to you' mantra these days, and we're all ridiculed for it. 

A lot of non-Wiccans scoff at us. They will say something more to the effect of, 'Aw, hell no! If someone tries to hurt me & mine, their ass is grass. I'm not Wiccan, I don't follow the Rede and have every right to protect myself. I have hexed and cursed people who have hurt me.'  

To me, we all have to consider ethics. I draw that line somewhere between self-defense and revenge. 

Let me elucidate: If you start swinging at me, I'm going to swing back in self defense until you stop. If you hit me and walk away, I'm not going to hit you back. I'm not going to go home and plan a way to jump out and smack you. I will probably never trust or respect you again, and our relationship is over. I may report you to the appropriate authorities. But I'm not going to turn vigilante on you. Once you're no longer an immediate threat, it isn't self-defense anymore. I will defend myself, but I won't try to get revenge. I am not a pacifist; but I am non-violent. 

Let me say right here: I am not one of your fluffy-bunny, white-lighter type Wiccans. My High Priest & High Priestess were kind of old school, and I that's what I respected about them, because I agree. The Rede, in my trad, is nothing more than advice, to be applied with wisdom and prudence. It's not a commandment not to ever do harm. And -- like Doreen Valiente -- we think the literal concept of a threefold law is 'poppycock'. 

I see nothing 'dark' or 'black' or 'evil' or worthy of punishment when it comes to self-defense. However, I have a big problem with revenge, because it comes from an ego in overdrive. Somewhere in-between the two lies balance-- and in Wicca, we strive for a healthy balance. 

My Tip for You Today: Look for that line. Try to figure out that place to stand between self-defense and revenge, and try to find your balance there. 

If you have to defend yourself against a threat, do what you must. Do it without guilt and without fear of retribution. Do not be someone's doormat or punching bag. But if you're not being directly threatened-- if you simply want the satisfaction of seeing a person who wrongs you getting his/her own comeuppance, walk away. Make changes, alert authorities, seek justice from a more objective source-- but my advice to you is to walk away and learn to control your vengeful urges.

We're not objective enough to be judge and jury for someone else. We might think we're 100% right. It might feel justified. But, we are not objective so we might be wrong. Often, it's two parties that contribute to conflicts. There is a reason why juries and judges are supposed to be impartial, objective, and have no conflict of interest with people on either side of the case. Because it's fair. 

Another point is that learning to rise above pettiness is a healthy attitude; and revenge (not to be confused with self-defense or even justice) is petty. It's a childish 'neener neener neener' kind of move. A lot of people who pooh-pooh Wiccan ethics as being too 'goody two-shoes' think that not wanting to enact revenge on others makes us 'weak' and 'fluffy'. They think it's because we fear some kind of triple backlash from some cosmic source (and sadly, some are) and they ridicule us.

But that's missing the point. The point is, we're adults, not children. We're trying to grow and evolve into enlightened, mature beings here. We are trying to rise above base emotions and knee-jerk reactions, to have better control over our own impulses. We have to live with ourselves. We have to have self-respect. We have to learn how to find balance, let things go, move on and not be held back by unhealthy negative urges to 'get back' at others. If you are that desperate to see others hurting (even if they wronged you), then you're the one who really has the problem... you are giving this person power over you. 

Taking the moral high road isn't weakness, it's strength. It's not out of fear of punishment (at least, it shouldn't be; that's preconventional moral reasoning); it's out of desire to handle things with a sense of dignity, and of conscience that extends beyond our own individual egos. I live by certain ethical principles, and I'm not going to give them up for the fleeting satisfaction that comes with seeing a terrible person get his due. 

The most potent expression of real power lies in self-restraint. 


What's your take?

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