I read a story on my social media about a person who was going through a drive through. Apparently the person was taking too long to order for the person behind them, and they were obnoxiously honking their horn to get the person telling the story to get a move on. The author decided to pay for the meal of the person behind them and the other driver found out about it and looked ashamed. The story looked to be going very well until the the author stated they then took not only their order, but the order of the rude lady they paid for. They took great glee in the fact that the person would have to drive around again as “punishment” for their impatience.
It is in our nature to want revenge for the bad things that people do to us. Even as I read that last part of the story, the primal part of me couldn’t help but want to laugh at the woe of someone who was being obnoxious because it felt like they got what they deserved. It didn’t take but a moment, however, for me to get back to the person I want to be and shake my head and lament that our culture finds it not only acceptable to get back at people, but encourages it.
Revenge is one of the primary reasons why our species has so many of the problems we still deal with. How many wars have been fought as a response to some insult? What crimes have been committed in a fit of anger because someone slighted us? How much suffering has been inflicted or people killed over vengeful leaders with access to large armies? Genocides have been committed simply out of the revenge of one group onto another. There is nothing glorious or noble about taking revenge.
It is important to note the difference between revenge and self defense. Many times we get confused in mix them together. We convince ourselves that an action is necessary to prevent it from happening again, but the truth is that we are angry and want to hurt the person who hurt us. Action against a person actively doing something to you in the moment is self defense. Punishment of those actions by those who were hurt is not. This is why we have a system of government that makes vigilante justice illegal. Actions taken by hurt people are never just.
As we move into the future, we need to start educating our citizens on the ideals that we want to take forward with us. Revenge can never be justified because there is no rational thought behind it. The actions taken come from a place of pure emotion, and the human heart is about as corrupt as anything possibly can be. Instead of laughing or cheering when we see someone taking revenge, we should be shaming that person just as hard as the original perpetrator, because that attitude is what is going to keep us from evolving into a more advanced society.
Revenge is one of the major reasons why our political system has broken down to the point that it has. The two party system in which we now exist operates almost exclusively on getting back at the other side for things it did in previous administrations. It’s more about getting our own way than working together in common cause. Rather than let go of what happened before and figure out the right way forward, we simply push our own way in the same vengeful manner that the person at the drive through did. There is no good in it, just raw emotion.
Unfortunately, revenge is a basic part of our emotional makeup, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I can write to encourage people to let go of their hate and “turn the other cheek”, but unless this message takes root and spreads, we will continue to be dominated by the darker side of our nature. Society can be so much better than it is today if we put just a little bit of effort into thinking with our heads instead of our hearts, but the discipline required to do that has been slowly eroding for many decades. We can turn the tide, but only if we actively push for it. We must shame ourselves into acting justly.
What do you think about revenge? Is our society centered around it, or should we be looking at other ways to resolve our problems? What should you do when someone hurts you? Our natural instinct might be to hit back, but perhaps we need to be thinking about our lives in a different way. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in, and if that ideal does not include such negative actions as revenge, we need to push forward in a way that chokes it down until it can no longer continue in our hearts.
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