One other insidious way worry can enter our lives is when we dwell on how others have wronged us.

We often poison our own happy thoughts figuring out how to even the score. We are predisposed to over-weight the negative1 as it is, so it is particularly important to avoid seeking vindication.

As Dale Carnegie puts it,

When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness. Our enemies would dance with joy if only they knew how they were worrying us, lacerating us, and getting even with us! Our hate is not hurting them at all, but our hate is turning our own days and nights into a hellish turmoil.2

Consider the mighty grizzly bear. Carnegie recalls a visit to Yosemite he made:

I noticed that night that there was one animal, and only one, that the grizzly permitted to come out of the forest and eat with him under the glare of the lights: a skunk. The grizzly knew that he could liquidate a skunk with one swipe of his mighty paw. Why didn’t he do it? Because he had found from experience that it didn’t pay.3

I find this simple anecdote useful. Anytime I feel the urge to get even4, I call to mind the unforgettable smell of skunk. This makes it easy to move on to more useful pursuits.

Revenge is a dish best left altogether untouched.

This post is one part in a series on worry. Feel free to dip in anywhere or start at the beginning.

  1. What was the last compliment you received? Now, how many childhood taunts can you bring vividly to mind? ↩︎

  2. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, pp. 124-5. ↩︎

  3. Carnegie, p. 124. ↩︎

  4. This happens most often when I’m driving, it seems. ↩︎