Norton: Rather than sinking to the low road of spite, consider the traffic-free high road (column)
We are such a funny society. I mean, where else can you go to be as entertained by the things that are funny, weird and even sad, all at the same time?
This past week, someone shared with me some stories and an article that has been around for a couple of years about “spite houses.” After shrugging it off as a joke or fake news and laughing pretty hard at even the possibility of such a thing, I found out that it was absolutely true and that the practice has been going on for more than a century, at least. First word that popped into my head: ridiculous.
Well, once I found out it was true, I laughed even harder. Not because I agreed with the people who were involved on either side of such a petty situation, but because of the sheer silliness of it all.
Let’s just think about this for a few minutes, shall we? I am angry with my neighbor, so I am going to invest my time, energy, money and feelings into building a strange-shaped or odd-sized home just to get even with every one of those no-good people whom I don’t like and who don’t like me. I am thinking this is a bad idea — a very bad idea.
First of all, now I would be stuck with a home I probably can’t sell, ever. Second of all, I am now stuck with neighbors where my whole life will be filled with stress and anxiety as I live inches away from their home. And lastly, I am going to eventually be stuck with spite-builder’s remorse for building the house in the first place, only to realize the only person I spited was myself. I did say ridiculous before, didn’t I?
But isn’t that the way spite works? We think we are getting back at someone, when all we are doing is creating more negative energy for ourselves. The moment we start thinking that we have to get back at someone, we need revenge or we will make someone else’s life miserable, all we have really done is set the footing and the trap for our own demise. That old saying never rings truer that we “cut off our nose off to spite our face.”
Spite is nothing more than a personal pettiness boomerang aimed at someone else that comes back to hit us in the head and knock us down.
It’s like driving down the highway and getting cut off by some crazy lunatic going 90 mph. Instead of thinking how lucky we are to be safe and staying in our own lane, we think it would be better to show them, catch up with them and let them know who the real crazy lunatic is.
So just to spite them or get even, we punch the gas and move into the next lane and start weaving in and out of traffic to show that driver just who the boss is on this highway. The only thing is, they are so far gone and well down the road that the sirens flashing in our rear view mirror are pulling over our own spite-filled car.
Oh, I have heard the argument that sometimes it just feels so good to get even. But that argument, when really tested, doesn’t feel so good after all, does it? Especially not when it comes to the small, meaningless and petty things we seek revenge for or try to spite someone else for.
Typically, at least with the people I have spoken with, they are the ones who feel bad over time. Guilt settles in, and they wish they could have made a better or different choice, maybe even pursued a more elegant solution.
Positive energy leads to positive outcomes. That’s why taking the high road has never felt better. When we can remove or separate ourselves from the immediate act or offense that set us off to begin with, and really think through it and rationalize the best road to take, we can make a better decision.
I will guarantee that the low road will look quite appealing in the short run, but the high road will take us to where we really want to go. The good news is that there is no traffic on the high road, as too many people are stuck on the low road. And the ride is smoother and more enjoyable, and the incidents of road rage are nonexistent up on the high road.
So how about you? Have you figured out just how bad spite and revenge are for you personally? If so, then I would love to hear your success story at firstname.lastname@example.org. And when we can remember that life on the high road is getting better all the time, it really will be a better-than-good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.