Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Posted October 6, 2010

Published in Lifestyle

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When We Have The Need To Teach People A Lesson It Is We Who Have Much To Learn

Read More: acting out, choices, ego, house burning, Tennessee firemen, vengeance

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Despite it being understandable that, amidst our anger, frustration and sense of injustice, we might get pleasure from fantasy thoughts about a guy's house burning down because he didn't want to pay his fair share, it is unacceptable that thoughts of vengeance such as this should be acted out in the real world to the detriment of others.

Letting a house burn down out of indignation and to "teach a lesson" is an immature and infantile approach to problem solving and conflict resolution. It is an acting out behavior. It is inappropriate, unchecked aggression.

Letting a house burn down is also shortsighted. To quote Newton's Third Law of Thermodynamics: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."  When we do things that are petty, petulant, impulsive and aggressive, we set into play anger, resentment, hostility and a desire for vengeance, all of which leads to more aggression, violence and wasted resources.

How can we apply this to our lives? What must we do?

  • We need to pay attention to our thoughts and appreciate that when we are frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry, we aren't going to be thinking as clearly as when we are calm and stress-free.  Should thoughts of ego, pride and vengeance occur, it is best we censor those thoughts. It is best we recognize that they are not healthy thoughts, that they are not compassionate thoughts, and that they are not who we want to be.
  • We need to not act out when we become angry. We need to remind ourselves that although instant gratification of our anger and displeasure would be extremely exhilarating, aggression against others is a self-destructive tactic in the long run.
  • When we perceive others as deserving of harsh judgment and punishment, we need to ask ourselves how we would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. We need to ask ourselves how we would feel if it was our own house burning down while others watched with smug, self-righteous satisfaction.
  • Amidst our struggles to survive and overcome the lack and limitations in our lives, we need to recall the words of Albert Einstein: "Remember your humanity. Forget the rest."