We watched a movie called in English “Gloomy Sunday – A Song of Love and Death”, (the German title is “Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod) on a recent Saturday night about a woman (Ilona) who was raped by an SS officer in Budapest, Hungary. Ilona had gone to see the officer to plead for a pardon for her husband who was being sent to a concentration camp. The officer promises to not send her husband to the concentration camp but then reneges on his promise. Years later Ilona takes revenge on the officer who is a prominent businessman in Hungry.
This is an extreme example of a good person being wronged in a horrific way. But it brings into sharp focus how in some instances being wronged can hold us captive for all our lives.
A general definition of being wronged includes an injury, a tort a violation of right. In its usual sense, wrong signifies an injury committed to a person, their property or to their relative rights. The general understanding of being wronged is to treat someone in an unfair or unacceptable way.
Psychologists, marriage counselors, religious persons and well-meaning friends and family tell us to let go of the wrong that happens in our lives. Yet we need time to heal from the pain and hurt that we feel when wronged.
What about the things that happen in our lives? A man cheats on his wife having an affair with a younger woman. A mother excludes a daughter from her inheritance because she believes she has been wronged. A company, especially in these times, wrongs a long-serving employee who has been hard-working, honest and loyal by cheating him or her out of a severance package. Those colleagues you thought were like family turn out to pawns of upper management carrying out their orders with malicious precision. Professed company values are practiced in the breach.
Small wrongs can often add up and make a person feel that they have been wronged in a big way. A manager once told me that employees accumulate all the small hurts they experience in a company and carry them through their working lives. These employees feel wronged and have no one who will listen to them.
The immediate impact of being wronged is painful. Blood drains from your face. The hurt person hunches, clutches his or her stomach, feels a weakness in the knee and has a hanging head. Inside the person’s mind races with negative thoughts and they feel a sickness in the bottom of their stomach, an emotional pain that grips them and won’t let go.
After the shock of how they have been treated, people have to come to terms with being wrong and have to live with it. It’s not possible to merely shut out what people in business, organisations, social circles and families have done to you. This is why it is important to learn to let go.
Harold Kushner, author of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”
says “In the final analysis, the question of why bad things happen to good people translates itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” He goes on to ask whether we are capable of forgiving and accepting in love a world which has “disappointed you by not being perfect, a world in which there is so much unfairness and cruelty, disease and crime, earthquake and accident?”
Unless you let go of being wronged, you will be stuck in the past and people and events will continue to control you. The lesson that life teaches is that we need to learn to endure so that we may become strong for further challenges that lie ahead. We also have to move on with our integrity intact and seek out new opportunities and people who are honest with your interests at heart.
Victor Frankel, a holocaust survivor, in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning”, talks of the bitterness of one fellow inmate in a death camp. “Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace thruth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them. We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse than the loss of a few thousand stalks of oats.”
Films that depict revenge for wrongdoings make us feel as though justice has been done, that the wheel has turned and balance has been restored in the world. But in real life the perpetration by the victim on a perpetrator cannot serve you. Bad people who have done wrong must be held accountable and suffer the consequences. But the victims are forced to face the wrongdoing with a different response. In plain language, it’s best to let it go and move on.