And I said something like: That sounds risky to me. I'm a pacifistic sort. If you respond even only by sending the person's own energy back to them, you are engaging in a cycle of retribution and taking some of that person's anger onto yourself.
More warrior-oriented people responded that they believed that there was no harm in defending yourself.
I agreed with that, but I still felt something was wrong and I couldn't put it into words, so I let it be for then.
And this is now. I was just reviewing Twelve Wild Swans by Starhawk&Valentine, chapter 4, and there was a passage that spoke to me about the earlier problem:
Revenge is not true power. To become empowered, we must acknowledge and relinquish that part of each of us that wants to get even. We cannot truly restore
balance by equalizing the pain; we must undertake the longer and more difficult
journey of healing.
Reading that helped me feel I could my feelings into words at last. I don't think that those who suggested reflecting the energy back to the ill-wisher were seeking revenge. But I feel that doing so is largely unnecessary. I believe more or less in the concept of the three fold return. Not even necessarily three--the number isn't important. Let me bring in a related concept from Christianity--that to commit a sin in your heart is the same as committing the sin in the world outside your head. It is the desire to do wrong that is the first sin.
Though I have stepped away from Christianity, it certainly still affects my thinking. When I deliberately do harm to another, the first person I harm is myself. I have willed harm, and therefore shaped myself as someone who wills harm. My harm causing act may be futile in the sense of actually harming the intended victim, but I have still degraded myself. On top of that, I conceive the world as being within me. I can do no harm without harming myself. So in my eyes, the ill-wisher of the story has already harmed himself at least twice over. We are what we do and what we think.
I am not a pacifist in the sense that I believe one should never fight. I don't believe that at all. I believe that one should choose one's battles carefully (yes, sometimes it's forced on you, but that's self-defense.) Choose positive action where you can. If you are designing a spell for prosperity, you don't include a plea that you won't starve and be thrown out of your home because of debt. You say: 'my need is great and I pledge to use wisely the bounty that is given me.'
So when ill-wished: "Joy shines within me / with truth light the shadows / with compassion ease sorrows / let all pain find healing. / I set my hopes upon peace. / So mote it be."