Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

I Corinthians 13:6, NRSV

In February 1994, I was waiting to hear if I’d made it into a PhD program. When a letter of acceptance came, it was a relief as much as it was a pleasure. I wasn’t too upset when the rejection letter from another program arrived. Disappointed, but not particularly angry with the school that turned me down. I didn’t give it much thought until I ran into another applicant. After six rejection letters, he had just opened his first acceptance letter.

“When I publish my first book, when I get my first job, when I’m famous, I’m going to write every school that didn’t take me and make them sorry for being so stupid.” The odd thing? He had a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face, looking for all the world like revenge for his rejection was worth celebrating just as much as his acceptance.

I understand the perverse pleasure of justified anger and righteous indignation, the lure of an undeserved slight that makes vengeful thoughts not only acceptable but perhaps even commendable. Especially if the slight was intentional. Rejection letters may not be my reason for spiteful thoughts, but I’ve had them, too. An opportunity to say “I told you so” or “You’ll be sorry,” the chance to spit poison and feel virtuous doing so sets fire to the heart and blood like nothing else.

But that’s the problem: returning pain for pain, insult for insult, harm for harm. Burning down the house because someone scorched a hole in the tablecloth, all the while rejoicing in destroying self and other in a glorious conflagration. In the end, it all ends in bitter ashes and choking smoke. Because rejoicing in wrongdoing – mine or someone else’s – doesn’t sustain the spirit: it kills it. Only acting in love for self and other can do that. A true reason to rejoice!

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Contrary”

  1. YEA! She’s ba-ack! Why does it feel so good to seek revenge??? “I’ll show you” is like an elixir of some sort while ” turning the other cheek” feels so lame. You’d hope it would be the other way around. Maybe conditioning one’s self to a more Christian response will reverse this or maybe not trusting feelings?

    1. A good question. The older I get, the less satisfaction I get from vengeful thoughts. Still, I’d be lying if I said I was over it all…

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