Monday, 27 May 2013

Revenge is sweet?

I don't understand revenge. I've never sought revenge on anyone, however badly they've treated me. I've never felt that it would do me any good. If anything, it would just make me feel guilty and mean and belligerent.

But apparently a lot of people find revenge deeply satisfying. They find it cathartic, liberating, perversely enjoyable. They like to rub someone's face in their failings and make them feel as dreadful as possible.

It seems especially common among jilted or dissatisfied lovers. Women who slice up their partner's clothes or write insults on their cars or circulate embarrassing photos on the internet. Men who cut off their wives without a penny or make out they're promiscuous sluts.

Can it really be cathartic? Maybe if the person has treated you particularly shabbily. Maybe if you just want to get the frustration and anger out of your system. Maybe if you want to show them you're not simply a doormat they can wipe their feet on.

But I've never felt the urge. My father treated me badly. One or two employers have treated me badly. Some supposed friends have treated me badly. But mostly I just shrugged my shoulders, rescued my self-esteem and moved on. I never "had it in" for them. I never wanted to "give them a good kicking." That desire in itself would affect my self-esteem. It would feel undignified, cheap, vulgar, primitive. I prefer to hold my head up high and turn my back on them.

Revenge strikes me as a kind of "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" principle, which I've never agreed with. Two wrongs don't make a right, and to my mind revenge is precisely one wrong added to another. If you want catharsis, why not just look for a better lover, a better friend, a better employer? Surely that'll do more for you in the long run than cutting up someone's clothes?

But maybe I'm just lacking a normal, healthy, full-bloodied emotion that needs to be indulged from time to time. Maybe I'm simply too kind-hearted, too phlegmatic, too rational.

37 comments:

John Gray said...

One day I will tell you story of how I dropped a ex's first edition novel down the bog!

Bijoux said...

I've felt vengeful a few times in youth, and it did have to do with passion.

Nick said...

John: No no, tell us now John. Go on go on, you know you want to.

Bijoux: All these cryptic comments! So come on, what did you do - or want to do?

Rummuser said...

This is a thought provoking post for someone like me who too never felt the need to take revenge nor was subject to a revenge attack from anyone. I suppose that I have just had a very dull life!

I however know others who go through long periods of plotting and stewing in the process and I think that it is a waste of energy that could well lead to health problems.

The best revenge is perhaps just total ignoring of the other person.

Nick said...

Ramana: It seems like a huge waste of energy to me, but people seem to get some sort of wicked pleasure out of it. And you're probably right that the best revenge is to blank the person who's upset you. Unless you have to work with them of course.

Grannymar said...

I am in the 'walk away from the source' group, otherwise I am feeding the offender and allowing them to win.

Nick said...

Grannymar: I agree, walk away if you can. But if the person can't be avoided, it's more difficult.

Liz said...

Definitely too kind-hearted, nick! Shame not everyone is like you.

Leah said...

A very good post. I have been on occasion a revenge-seeker, always undercover and psychologically oriented revenge. In fact, I took revenge on someone very recently, within the last few months. Cleverly, stealthily, and with devastating effectiveness. I wasn't exactly proud of myself, but it gave me a rush of satisfaction.

However, your post has made me think: was it really useful? Probably not. Would I do it again if I had a do-over? Yes.

Leah said...

I have to add: I don't just seek revenge willy-nilly. It has to be an ENORMOUS, cruel, and unfair hurt...

Nick said...

Oh thank you, Liz. The Mutual Appreciation Society is in full swing!!

Leah: Ooh, you wicked woman, I had a feeling you had a bit of a vengeful streak! Enormous, cruel and unfair, my God! I'm dying to know the details - I shall message you....

Leah said...

Oh I meant that the object of my revenge must have committed an enormous hurt against me...

but yes! my revenge has been, on occasion, enormous!!

Nick said...

Oh I see!

e said...

I'm with you on this one, Nick. The best revenge is living well despite the actions of others.

Nick said...

e: It takes quite a bit of self-restraint though, don't you think? The thought of revenge often crosses my mind, but I baulk at actually carrying it out.

Roses said...

The great thing about the ending of an awful situation, is that it's done. Finis.

Revenge means taking it with you into your future to plot someone else's downfall. You have to relive it and keep the pain and anger going.

Me, I'd rather do some thing else more fun.

Nick said...

Roses: Very true about keeping the pain and anger going. Though I guess the whole idea of revenge is that it purges the pain and anger once and for all. But does it?

Leah said...

I suppose I believe that some actions deserve retribution...

63mago said...

Revenge can be very satisfying. Just saying.
I have a fault, I can not forget some things. Like Leah said, it has to have reached a certain level of hurt first. One can built a trap or something; needs some time and thinking; well done it can be very effective.

Wisewebwoman said...

Revenge can be utterly and completely sweet.
XO
WWW

Bijoux said...

It was so long ago, and I was only 20, so that is my excuse....but it involved blackmail and roses! Hahaha.

Leah said...

YES

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Ultimately, I think we all come to the same conclusion, that revenge hurts us far more than the one we intend to punish. It's a bit like forgiveness, only more so. But not everyone has the kind of self esteem that can take a beating and emerge unscathed. Perhaps that is what we should be working on instead of public displays of being wronged.

Nick said...

Leah: I'm not keen on retribution. I prefer to think in terms of helping the person to change their behaviour. If that's possible.

63mago: I'm the opposite, I tend to forget how people have treated me, unless what they did was truly atrocious. It sounds like you really enjoy the intricate planning of a juicy bit of revenge!

Nick said...

www: Sounds like you have plenty of experience of some very satisfying come-uppances!

Bijoux: Blackmail and roses? My imagination is in overdrive....

Heart: That's my feeling, that revenge only ultimately hurts the revenger. But clearly others see it differently! And you're right that some people's self esteem is just not that resilient.

Nick said...

Heart: Funnily enough, I started writing about forgiveness, but then decided revenge was much more interesting!

Z said...

Being someone who likes to think things through, it can be satisfying enough to plot the revenge - no need to actually carry it out and then I can let it all go. Mind you, it's a bit similar with blog posts - the more I plan one, the less likely I am to write it!

Nick said...

Z: That's an interesting compromise between shrugging your shoulders and all-out revenge! Indeed, detailed planning can sometimes bring everything to a grinding halt!

63mago said...

No, I do not like it, and it's years since I done such a thing.
It's work and I am lazy by nature.

Secret Agent Woman said...

The whole idea of getting revenge repulses me. I understand the motivation behind it, but one evil never fixes another and it only demeans the person engaging in it. Even when I blogged about someone who'd hurt me deeply, I was careful to disguise his identity.

An aside - I think one of the reasons I don't find religion compelling is that I cold never get on board with a petty, spiteful god who participated in brutal vengeance in the Old Testament and demanded the torture and death of his own son to appease himself in the New. No wonder people think revenge is a legitimate course of action!

Nick said...

63mago: Okay, I stand corrected!

Agent: I entirely share your sentiments. Personally it just seems nasty and tawdry. As for religion, apart from the idea of vengeance, there are just too many contradictory principles I can never make sense of.

Cheerful Monk said...

I'm with the people who believe the best revenge is to live a happy life. Cut the connection and move on.

Nick said...

Jean: That's how I feel, but it can be difficult if you still have to work (or live) with the person and they're constantly getting on your tits.

Ursula said...

I respect Jean but I think her comment here spiteful - and meaningless. A few years ago a close relative invaded my privacy and made my life very unhappy indeed; the fallout of her indiscretion was/is spectacular (and no, I didn't take revenge - no point). Jean says "Cut the connection and move on." If only life were as simple as that.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, if someone has been sufficiently vicious, and it's possible to just cut the connection, then why not? But as you say, life isn't always that simple. Even if you cut the connection, you can still be left with all sorts of negative feelings.

Cheerful Monk said...

Nick,
By cutting the connection I was only partially thinking of getting out of the situation if possible. I was thinking even more of working on the negative feelings --- focusing on what I really want out of life. Presumably the idea of revenge is to keep us from feeling like a victim. We would be doing something rather than just being a passive recipient. But for me that would be focusing my energy too narrowly. Why not go for something bigger, more expansive? It does take a lot of work.

Nick said...

Jean: Yes, I didn't think about cutting the emotional connection but of course that's important as well. And that's a good point about not wanting to feel like a victim. I agree, the best response (if you can keep to it) is to focus on increasing your own well-being rather than getting snagged on the other person.