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"Revenge is sweet," say the ignorant.  And they're ignorant because they don't know the subtle dynamics of revenge and the desire for revenge, the inevitable letdown once revenge is "achieved."  They don't realize just how their desire for revenge has affected them, and they don't realize that the other side of revenge--forgiveness--would have been much, much sweeter for everyone involved.

The desire for revenge seems to be a cultural norm for some people--that's just the way things are done, especially in may of the micro-cultures of the world.  Males seem to be particularly vulnerable to the desire for revenge, but women aren't immune from its bite.  The desire for revenge is the desire to "get even," as if repaying injustice for injustice is somehow evening scales.  It almost always ends up hurting someone, usually in unforeseen ways.

First off, the desire for revenge is in many ways an obsession.  Obsessions always pull our focus away from more important aspects of our lives, such as family, friends, work, and enjoyment of all that we have.  Obsessions prevent us from being present in the moments in which we're living.  If we're so caught up in thinking about this something that someone has done to us, so caught up in thinking about how we're going to get back at that person, we can't concentrate fully on any task at hand.  How can we get the most out of any given day if we're thinking the entire day about something negative that was done to us and how we're going to commit some sort of negative act against someone else?

Second, taking revenge always brings us down a few notches.  We lower ourselves to a level at which it's often difficult to respect ourselves, and our self-esteem and self-image suffer, sometimes unconsciously, but always to some extent.  If the act that was done to us was low enough to upset us, the act that has to be done to exact revenge has to be just as low.  If we disrespect the person who hurt us, how can we respect ourselves if we do something just as low?  We may feel the momentary thrill of self-righteous "getting even," but in the long run, we've diminished ourselves and who we are.

Third, as Francis Bacon notes below, people who focus on revenge don't allow the hurts of a transgression to heal--they keep the wound open by focusing strongly on it, by making it a focal point of their lives, and they think that the moment of revenge will cause it to heal instantaneously.  They're wrong.  The only way those wounds will heal is through forgiveness--revenge is merely a momentary painkiller, but the hurt remains.  And it's not a painkiller that one can take over and over, either.  It's a one-time shot that wears off quickly.

People I've known who focus on revenge tend to lose much of what the world offers them.  They don't see the beauty around them, and they don't even consider the potential benefits of forgiving whatever transgression has occurred.  Worse still, people who have gotten their revenge find in retrospect that it wasn't nearly as sweet as it seemed it would be.  They find that most people don't share in their glee at having harmed someone else, and they even find that they feel a bit bad for that someone else.

I've been in the situation myself, but I've been fortunate enough to learn rather early on that revenge accomplishes almost nothing constructive in my life.  So I "get back" at someone--big deal.  It hasn't made me a better person, and it hasn't improved my relationship with the world; in fact, I've harmed the world by adding to the discord and anger of the world, rather than adding to the harmony and peace of the world.  Every action we commit adds to one or the other, and I don't want to be adding any more harm or anger--there's enough of that as there is.

If you really need to take revenge on someone, then by all means, do so--nobody's going to be able to convince you that it's wrong to do so.  But please consider the alternative that will help you to grow as a human being and will help you to have greater peace of mind and a stronger presence in the moment.  Forgiveness is much stronger than revenge, in all possible ways.



Never does the human soul appear so strong as when
it forgoes revenge, and dares to forgive an injury.

E.H. Chapin


Revenge is ever the pleasure of a paltry spirit.

Latin proverb


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A man that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green,
which otherwise would heal and do well.

Francis Bacon

To forget a wrong is the best revenge.

Italian proverb


To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.



Revenge, at first thought sweet, bitter ere long back on itself recoils.

John Milton


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All of us have times when we want revenge.  Sometimes it's for small
things like being cut off for a parking space, sometimes for big things like
losing a job or being rejected through divorce.  It's okay to fantasize about
throwing paint on people, running over them with a car, mailing them dog
poop, or confronting them in public.  But it's not okay to do it.  There's a
big gap between fantasizing, which feels good, and actually carrying out the
revenge.  It's the difference between people who are in control of their
lives and people who are not.
   The best revenge is, of course, a good life.  Enjoy yourself, be happy,
be successful.  It'll drive them crazy--or you can imagine it does.  You'll
feel so good you won't care.

Jennifer James

An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.

Mohandas Gandhi
also attributed to Khalil Gibran


When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging
two graves: one for your enemy, and one for yourself.

Jodi Picoult
Nineteen Minutes

The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes people dependent
upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release
from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.

Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken: A World War II Story of
Survival, Resilience and Redemption

The dead don't desire revenge, but the happiness of the living.
To dirty your small hands would bring joy to no one.

Watsuki Nobuhiro


In spite of the fact that the law of revenge solves no social problems
people continue to follow its disastrous leading. History is cluttered with
the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path.

Martin Luther King, Jr.



Revenge. . . is like a rolling stone, which, when a person has
forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence,
and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.

Albert Schweitzer


May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge
today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion.
We are to love our enemies that they might
be returned to their right minds.

Marianne Williamson


Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic
wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavor,
metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation
as if I had been poisoned.

Charlotte Bronte


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The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrongdoer.

Marcus Aurelius

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