Love Letters to Humans (no. 57) — on Retaliation

Retaliation: The relational fuckery of amplifying and reciprocating violence in the misguided hope that we can negate our own hurt by giving it to someone else.

We come by it honestly. We learn what we live, and we have learned to meet discomfort, disagreement, and difference with violence.

Those of us who live in the United States inhabit a militaristic nation perpetually at war, in a culture that glorifies soldiers and uses warfare and weapons as casual metaphor. We “battle” diseases. We “wage war” on society’s ills. We feel “attacked” and get defensive when something “hits too close to home.” We “pull the trigger” on a decision. Spiritual teachers “drop bombs” of truth.

Our ideas and language about freedom and war are so deeply intertwined that it is no wonder vulnerability is terrifying. Our ways of relating to one another reflect our culture; our culture reflects our ways of relating to one another.

We are not to blame for the world we inherited -and- we are responsible for choosing something different if the relational skills we have aren’t leading us to the joyful connection that is all of our birthright.

Retaliation in our everyday relationships can sometimes look like this: Emotional punishment (e.g. silent treatment) for perceived slights • Withholding resources or care in response to someone displeasing us • Physical or psychological violence in response to… pretty much anything • Shunning or undermining the credibility of someone who disagrees with us • Responding to accusations of harm with our own accusations (rather than listening first) • Escalating non-conflict to authority (e.g. telling mom, calling the police, asking to speak to the manager) • Sarcasm, snark, and generally shitty behavior (including negative self-talk) in response to discomfort, disagreement, or difference we don’t like

Where do you choose violence and retaliation in your most important relationships?

What else could you do instead to take care of yourself and keep possibility open for repair and joyful connection?