All they that take the sword, it has been said, shall perish with the sword, and the Ten of Swords is a card that show us the real-life implications of this proverb. This is the ultimate manifestation of the Swords suit and its negative, destructive power. Even though only one sword would be needed to kill this man, ten were used: he has not simply been killed, but annihilated. The Ace of Swords was a warning about using excessive force for evil purposes and the Ten is the inevitable result of that abuse of power. Those who refuse to listen to the wisdom of the Swords will eventually be impaled on them.
This card usually symbolizes a sudden and unexpected failure or disaster, a power beyond your control that humbles you without warning or mercy. Karma, the law of cause and effect, has free reign in the Ten of Swords, so a past misdeed may indeed be the source of future trouble. Sometimes you will be able to change this outcome, but most of the time you will simply have to bear down and take the hit. The positive side is that the Ten of Swords is the final ordeal, and no more pain will come to you from that source. It is darkest before the dawn, and as gloomy as it looks, the sun will rise again.
Something that is important to note, at least in the Rider-Waite symbology, is that the sun is indeed rising in the background despite the black clouds. Each new beginning must come from another beginning's end, and with every defeat are sown the seeds of future victory. Enlightenment comes from using your mental and spiritual powers for good, and this is the true lesson of the Swords suit. This card is the ultimate teacher, and it shows you how to learn from your mistakes and misdeeds so you never have to fall prey to the evil side of the Swords suit again.
When this card appears after a painful situation, it is a signal to pick yourself up off the ground and start thinking about what happened to you and what you have to learn from it. Hidden deep beneath the surface of the Ten of Swords is the ultimate power of the Swords suit: the ability to analyze your ways and learn from yourself. True wisdom does not come from without, but from within. The Ten of Swords is a sign that what you have gone through was not without purpose. The great positive power within you can be used to learn from your pain and draw wisdom from defeat. This is the Swords ideal.