Rev.Fr Tochukwu Onyeagolu

The other day in my office, a married woman told me that her mind was made up, that she had finally decided to get even with her husband and that she would be paying him back in his own coin. What is the problem? The husband is a shameless Casanova. He had slept with more women than King Solomon could ever boast with his 700 wives and 300 concubines. The woman had pleaded, cried and fought to no avail. She even called elders and family members to intervene. Yet there was no breakthrough. The husband had remained implacable in his rabid quest. Now the woman is no longer crying. She had finally concluded on what to do.

So sitting before me that day was a woman who had been toughened by the scandal of an adulterous husband. She was not seeking spiritual counsel or sympathy from me anymore. She rather came to tell me of her decision to fight back. “I have had enough.” She told me. “Adultery is now the only way to get back at my husband and I don’t want you to talk me out of it. Don’t even bother. In fact, I have already found a handsome virile young man for myself.” She said this with an air of triumph. While she was talking, I caught the look in her eyes and I was broken by what I saw. Immediately I knew she was not exercising power. There is nothing powerful about a woman using adultery as a weapon of revenge against her husband. The truth was in her eyes. She was nothing but a woman, a faithful wife who had been shattered by her husband’s marital infidelity. Poor woman! She had no idea that committing adultery would shatter her all the more. Her husband had been driving her crazy. But this time around the tragedy is about to become final. But I will not allow that.

In a sheer gust of inspiration I put up a stunt. I started clapping, pulled out a plane sheet from the rim of papers on top of my table and began to write. My action must have seemed like a scene from a comedy skit since the woman was taken aback by the weirdness of it all. I saw her confusion. Yes my action probably came down on her as a sort of careless trivialization, a counterweight to the sensitivity of her plight. I did not want to keep her wondering for long. So I told her right away that my clapping was meant for her husband. I showed her what I wrote on the plane sheet. It read: “Congratulations to the wonderful man who is your husband.” When she read it, her reaction was pure rage. She got up from her seat with a fury I have never seen before in a woman and bolted out towards the door. I quickly called her back and pleaded with her not to leave. I promised to explain everything to her. Reluctantly she came back with a look that seemed to be saying: “what explanation have you for pulling this stunt?

I pulled the stunt above in order to create a hard-hitting sarcasm. I wanted her to appreciate a painful truth. Any woman who decides to become adulterous simply as a weapon of revenge against an adulterous husband has suffered a double defeat. The battle we are fighting with those who create pain for us is not just to defeat nor to get even with them. If that is all there is in the battle, then revenge would have changed the face of the earth for better. The greatest battle anyone can wage in the war against evil is never to end up becoming the very evil you are fighting to defeat. Now how can a woman fighting an adulterous husband claim victory if she ends up becoming an adulterous wife?  You have seen why I told her that her husband deserves to be congratulated. This is because the husband has succeeded in bringing the woman down to his base level. What a defeat! The moment she saw my point, her anger gave way and I taught her the best revenge she could use against her husband.

In the first book of Samuel, Saul, the great King of Israel was crying before the boy David. He said: “David my son, you are more righteous than I, you have treated me very well, but I have treated you badly. The Lord delivered me into your hands but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.” (I Sam 24:16-20) Forgiveness is the greatest revenge against any evil. Nothing breaks the heart of an enemy more than forgiveness. King Saul was shattered when David forgave him. Forgiveness is a sign of real strength. It has been said that to forgive is divine. Through forgiveness, King Saul saw the greatness of David, nay, his divinity. It was the magnanimity of his soul. No wonder Saul said of David: “You are more righteous than I.” “Forgiveness represents a decision not to do what instinct or passion urges us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity.” For Jonathan Sacks: “In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. Forgiveness means that we are not destined endlessly to replay the grievances of yesterday. It is the ability to live with the past without being held captive by the past.”

Rev.Fr Tochukwu Onyeagolu is a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha and manager St Anthony of Padua High School Nkpor. You can reach him @tochukwuonyeagolu@gmail.com

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