There are things that happen that leave you baffled while others leave you completely speechless. You don’t know whether to comment, or to scream, or to question…
This was my reaction when I read an extract from a certain social media platform that had given a summary of the murder trial of one Mr. Ronald Opus. I have no idea who Mr. Opus was, why he was murdered and why his story ended up online. I also do not know the authenticity of this story so before any learned friend thinks of suing me, please take note of this disclaimer.
What made me share this story is because after reading it, I realized there is a major lesson to pick from it. Read on and let’s take the lessons together after the story…
On March 23, 1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head.
Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to the effect indicating his despondency.
As he fell past the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window, which killed him instantly.
Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had been installed just below the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned.
"Ordinarily," Dr Mills continued, "A person, who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide."
That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands.
The room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun.
The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the bullets went through the window striking Mr. Opus.
When one intends to kill subject "A" but kills subject "B" in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject "B".
When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were both adamant and both said that they thought the shotgun was unloaded.
The old man said it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, if the gun had been accidentally loaded.
The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident.
It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother.
Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty of the murder even though he didn't actually pull the trigger.
The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.
Now comes the exquisite twist.
Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus.
He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window.
The son had actually murdered himself, so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.
What a twist!
The first thing that came to mind after reading this story was, if he was seeing himself lying down there dead, how was he feeling knowing that the bullet he had intended for someone else is the same bullet that had ended his life? If he had seen this outcome way before he set out to plot his mother’s death, would he have gone ahead and loaded the gun?
Majority of people who have read this story online or are reading it here for the first time might be blaming Mr. Opus for his actions. Truth be told though, many have done the same exact thing without necessarily coming up with a dead body to show for it. He did this out of wanting revenge. No wonder Douglas Hortan said, “While seeking revenge, dig two graves”. Why? Because he understood the fact that in looking for a way to settle a score, things could go the other way and instead of killing the person who wronged you, you either get killed, or he gets killed, or both of you get killed.
Revenge is the desire to get even when someone does you wrong. It’s natural to feel angry, to want payback. However, revenge reduces you to your worst self, puts you on the same level with those spiteful people we claim to abhor. Additionally, studies have shown that revenge increases stress and impairs health and immunity.
Sure, if someone hits you with a stick, you have the impulse to hit them back… and isn’t this the basis for wars? Isn’t this the reason we live in fear of terrorists today? Isn’t this the reason we have become suspicious of our neighbors today, people we have lived with for decades but we are no highly suspicious of their every move simply because they have grown a long goatee, and no longer shave their hair, and the fact that they have switched religions to one where they pray 5 times a day? Isn’t this the reason why we no longer embrace togetherness but instead we have embraced the policy of everyone for themselves and God for us all? Isn’t revenge, or fear of revenge the reason we are walking around with trust issues?
No one is perfect. Even you who is often wronged, you have your own list of weaknesses just that you have been very lucky that the people around you don’t always flaunt your weaknesses in your face.
Back to Mr. Opus and the question I asked earlier, what would have happened had he known he was going to die by the bullet he had intended for someone else?
This is the one question I would like us to ask ourselves; when you embark on a journey of revenge, how sure are you that your strategy will not backfire on you? How sure are you that you will indeed achieve your mission? Besides, why allow yourself to go through all that misery? Why allow yourself to go through all those moments of sleepless nights, and bile in your gut, just plotting on how to make someone else’s life miserable in the name of revenge?
How about learning to forgive and move on? I have come to realize that the easiest way to keep hurt feelings alive is by plotting revenge. I have also come to realize that the best form of revenge is to forgive and let the person who hurt you know that you have forgiven them, whether they apologize or not, whether they recognize their mistake or not. Yours is to forgive and move on. I have also come to realize that another form of revenge is by succeeding in every area of your life.
So, I know the human way is to seek revenge whenever you are wronged. How about we change from that now and instead, we seek not to revenge but instead we seek to live in peace within ourselves first and also with those who have wronged us? How about we walk around with less baggage in our hearts and minds? How about we have less people living with ulcers and stress because of revenge? How about we have less bodies being buried due to revenge related “incidents”?
Let’s make it a rule in our lives that going forward revenge will no longer be a part of our lifestyle. Let’s purpose to live a revenge-free life, and should the devil whisper in your ear that revenge is good, may you remember the words of Austin O’Malley who said, “Revenge is often like biting a dog because the dog bit you”. At that point, between you and the dog, who would be crazier?
Wishing you a revenge-free week and life ahead!
PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 21st February, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".