Anger, hatred, vengeance: – am I feeling them? are my feelings wrong?
It can be hard to tell whether we are feeling hatred or whether we are simply feeling anger. Living within the abuse and fog, we suppress a lot of our anger. As we come out of the fog and we realise how abominably and underhandedly we were treated, anger naturally comes to the surface. Anger can help us set boundaries and develop thicker skins for when we have to deal with all the people who “don’t get it” in our lives.
I guess most Christian survivors go through times when they wonder “Am I wanting vengeance? Or am I simply feeling righteous indignation about the injustice with which I’ve been treated?” I don’t know a neat formula for distinguishing between them, but I suppose if we find ourselves dwelling on how we might exact vengeance, we’d better rein ourselves pretty fast!
In my experience, having the occasional flight of fancy of vengeance does not signify serious sin on my part. It’s like black humor, it’s a way to survive. You have to laugh or else you’d cry. And the day I heard that an expensive tool had been stolen from my ex’s car and I felt a burst of Schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others), my follow-up emotion was chagrin at my fleshly thought, along with gratitude to God for apparently delivering a small measure of justice to my ex for the ways he had ravaged my life.
To imagine taking vengeance on your abuser can be a way of letting some of the steam off the pressure cooker, so long as you know it is only an imaginary exercise. When I had the occasional thought of vengeance towards my first husband, I didn’t berate myself heavily. But if I had started dwelling on those thoughts in earnest and nursing the feeling of hatred with intent to make the abuser suffer, I would have needed to confess, hand it up to God, and disengage. Our King of Righteousness can and will take vengeance on the ungodly, and he’ll do it better than I ever could, with perfect justice — shaped and tailored to each individual — unless their sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.
Here are links to some old posts we’ve done that relate to this topic, in case you haven’t read them before.