Is success really 'the best revenge'?

I was reading a career and life advice book for millennials, and while it was good and practical, I stumbled upon a page with advice that I questioned.  I also had thought before that it was right, but now it didn't feel that way. It is a popular notion today, and maybe you've heard this somewhere.

The idea that success is the best revenge. You're being bullied and put down today? Then focus on bettering yourself so someday you'll be so far above them that they will regret ever looking down on you. People don't see your worth? Then work hard to accomplish things and succeed, until there will be accolades on your name while they are forgotten.

At the surface level, it makes sense. We all love stories where the underdog has risen above his situation, proved the critics wrong, and ended up more successful than the people who have put him down. I admit that I thought that way before. When I felt that people were bullying me, I always thought to myself, someday you'll see, and I'll be better than you. Now you're laughing at me, but wait until the day that its my turn.

I ended up counting the wrongs done to me, always imagining a future scene where they will remember what they did and regret it. I ended up seeing my accomplishments as something to use against other people. When I graduated with honors in college, I had thought, if only I could show this to people who told me I was dumb and a pseudo-intellectual. Now those who have laughed behind my back will respect me.

I had thought the same things when I passed the board exam. My, what a boost to my ego! I loved the praise! I had thought that I was so good and so smart! Now if only I could slap this award to my enemies' faces, I thought. Then I ended up feeling empty. Instead of thanking God for the blessing and moving on, sharing it for the good of all, without clinging to past successes or failures, I was thinking, see me, acknowledge me, because now I am better than all of you. Instead of feeling vindicated, I thought that my perceived enemies probably have forgotten who I am and don't really care if I succeed or not. It made me focus on myself too much.

Then soon I realized that what the world thinks of as success is isolating and full of expectations. I sometimes regretted the so-called 'accomplishments'. I began to question the notion that the best revenge is success. If others look down on us, it can be a good reason and motivation to better ourselves. But if we obsessively chase after it and demand acknowledgement in our hearts, and if we don't get it, we'll just be depressed and desperate.

I know someone who still holds on to grudges from years ago. It's sad this person did everything to better himself, and finally was in a position of success, but in the end no one still likes him. Everyone seemed to sense his insecurities, and while he is successful he still wants to be acknowledged. He keeps repeating the same old stories and rehashing the same old accomplishments, but it seemed that he didn't get the acknowledgment he wanted.  Actually, no one really cared. This person ended up being a toxic presence, getting in the way of other people just so he can accomplish his own agenda and be acknowledged.

While I disliked his behavior, I still have a little compassion. I realized that even if I dislike this person, I'm not that different from him. Then I thought that I don't want to be like that. I want to tell him that his life could be so much easier and people will genuinely care if he just let go. There's no reason to hold on so tight. But this person's perceptions are clouded, and I just hope that he will realize it too.

The Bible instructs Christians not only to forgive our enemies but do good to them. Always easier said than done, when our natural inclinations tell us we need to hit back. Jesus was spat on, flogged, kicked, and killed. But instead of returning it, he chose to sacrifice himself for our forgiveness. With that thought, I feel that I have no right to harbor ill will towards anybody. Our accomplishments and their acknowledgment will do nothing if we don't already accept ourselves. It is the more difficult way at first, but in the end, forgiving and letting go is better than chasing revenge.

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