Should We Retaliate When Others Antagonise Us?

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A common proverb states: “The teeth can also bite the tongue.” During personal contact, it is inevitable for people to have squabbles. After a confrontation or friction, how do we deal with the personal relationships?
When I was young, I learnt in the text books a quote from Chairman Mao Zedong. It says, “If someone does not antagonise me, I will not antagonise him, but if he antagonises me, I will certainly antagonise him too.” At that time, I thought that what Chairman Mao said was thoroughly pragmatic. Hence, like everyone else, I treated Mao’s words as a motto, that later in life, no one should try to antagonise or bully me, for I will not let the matter rest! Do not think I am afraid of you! I acted like a fighting cock. I was not afraid of being bullied, as I was ever prepared for it. I became very calculating, and adopted the principle of a tooth for a tooth, and would retaliate against any incursion on me, even to the extent of hurting others and still feeling that I was actually the victim.

In China today, after being inculcated by the Communist Party for many decades, the tooth for a tooth principle, and retaliating against evil with evil way of life has hurt countless people. Many people feel that they are living in a desert of human relationships and it is a bitter experience. After reading the “Nine Commentaries” from The Epoch Times, I discovered that the attitude of a tooth for a tooth was a deliberate poisoning of our minds by the Chinese Communist Party. It led to being extremely calculating and giving rise to the development of enmity and hatred for others. It poisoned our hearts and spirits and was equivalent of making us swallow bitter fruit.

The opposite of a tooth for a tooth is to be forgiving. What is to be forgiving? People have said:


“If we stomp on the jasmine flowers, and yet they leave their fragrance on our feet, that is what forgiving is!”

“A person who would not forgive others is not giving himself any leeway for the future as everyone is liable to make mistakes and would then need forgiving at those instances.”

“Not to be forgiving is to dismantle the bridge we have to cross.”

“Not to be forgiving is to bear a heavy burden of a boulder on the shoulder for life, and to be living a friendless and wretched, insignificant, and petty illusion. To be forgiving is to open our hearts to accommodate the abundant heavenly gifts and grace.”

Western religions emphasise universal love and to love your enemies. They have a saying, “When others strike your left cheek you turn the right cheek for them.” The ancient Chinese Confucians were very particular about the doctrine of forbearance with the minimum requirement of:

“Do not unto others as you would not have others do unto you.”

“Concession is unrestrained and far-ranging.”

“Hostility is taking the wrongs of others to torment yourself.”

“Enmity should be dissolved and not formed.”

The Buddha School stresses that everything has a preordained fate, and we must repay our debts, exercise forbearance, practise compassion, and kindly resolve grievances.

Stepping aside, it is not difficult for us to note that if we opt for vengeance, we would only make more enemies and hence embroil ourselves in bitterness. But if we choose to be forgiving, we would make more friends, and the world would be a more harmonious place. If we choose in accordance with our normal human feelings, we would choose to be forgiving. But the Chinese Communist Party had inculcated in us the ideology of vengeance which, in fact, is just to open a path for them.

From this day onwards, let us begin to forgive the people around us, and because of it, the world will become a better place to live in.

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