Sunday’s Wisdom #53: Break the Cycle of Cruelty

“These things have happened, Zygella, they are facts. You just want cruelty to beget cruelty. You’re not superior to people who were cruel to you. You’re just a whole bunch of new cruel people. A whole bunch of new cruel people, being cruel to some other people, who’ll end up being cruel to you. The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive. Why don’t you break the cycle?”
– The Doctor, Doctor Who
Season 9, Episode 8, “The Zygon Invasion, Pt. 2”

This quote from Doctor Who addresses a truth both near and dear to my heart: when we become like the monsters who have tormented us, all we have accomplished is to become just like them. We hold no moral high ground when we do this.

As the Doctor is trying to convince a renegade, warmongering alien to convert to the path of peace, she brings up what has been done to her and her people. No details, mind you, just statements of how they’ve been treated like cattle and it’s not fair. Yes, they have felt the pain of cruelty, but they, themselves, have chosen to respond by piling high the corpses of innocent men, women, and children. They were on the receiving end, and now they’re on the giving end of cruelty.

The past cannot be changed, it is immutable. No matter what we do, what’s done is done and cannot by undone. To take the pain that has been inflicted upon us, and inflict it on others, that just perpetuates the cycle we could have broken. We don’t surpass the people we hurt us, we just become like them. And, much more often than not, we hurt people who were completely blameless for our pain, and so the poison of cruelty spreads like a disease, an epidemic, often returning straight back to us.

Peace will not be found in standing tall and proud atop a mountain of bloody corpses and moaning victims. It will only be found in letting go of our pain. It’s not an easy thing, to forgive the people who hurt us. That holds true on an individual level, and a collective one. But if we do, we can find peace within, and this is the foundation for peace between parties who were formerly at war. If we don’t… well, then we are trapped within our own darkness.

This is why we hold our anger in check, and leave it to the law to punish criminals. This is why we don’t seek vengeance ourselves, but leave justice in the hands of others. This is why we keep our demons locked up tight, and never take joy in the pains of others.

To replace cruelty with love, anger with forgiveness, and pain with healing.

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