In the frontier days, unscrupulous people traveled from town to town selling worthless medicines that claimed to cure any number of diseases. Instead of useful remedies, they were worthless concoctions that gave an immediate sensation, but provided nothing curative. These products were dubbed “snake oil.”

There is still a type of snake oil prevalent in our society to which many people fall prey–revenge. Revenge promises to satisfy our emotional pain but it never does. Those who exercise it may feel a sense of relief, but it never lasts. The pain returns as does the desire for vengeance. Like the bogus treatments of old, revenge only succeeds in addicting its user without curing the cause. There just aren’t enough ways to make a person pay for what they did.

The real cure for our emotional pain is forgiveness. Revenge inflames our resentment while forgiveness quenches it. Our inner anguish will never go away until we let the perpetrator off of the figurative hook on which our revenge has impaled them. Otherwise we will spend our life looking for bigger hooks that inflict greater pain upon them.

The challenge of forgiveness is to get past our initial anger. Prayer provides our first step. Praying for those who have hurt us allows God to prepare our hearts to release the offender. It changes our perspective, and infuses love into the situation. God can and will do in us, what we cannot do ourselves.

Don’t let revenge dupe you! It might feel good for a moment, but only forgiveness heals forever.

Pastor Mark Holmes is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church and has served at Darrow Road Wesleyan Church in Superior, Wisc., since 1997.