#17A: Imagine—you were victimized!
After the shock and pain subsided you were full of anger.
What was done to you was so wrong,
mean and unjustified! Indeed,
the aftermath of that horrible, traumatic insult and injury has filled
you with bitterness and thoughts of revenge.
How did those arise? Simple—after
reviewing all aspects of what happened and why, you soon focused your
anger on the person(s) responsible: making a judgment and placing blame. In doing that you served notice that you are holding
another (others) accountable and will be seeking justice! (See Figure #17a.)
Now you don't quite know how to proceed.
You've gone over many possibilities.
Seems you're having trouble sitting still and letting society's
wheels of justice turn as they normally would be expected to in matters
like this. Seems it's
getting harder to ignore that voice inside your head that's screaming at
you to strike back! To—out
of the blue—hurt the person(s) who hurt you.
To more than get even, to hit them with everything you've got! You've started enjoying imagining their pain and suffering.
Could be that it's time you started planning exactly how you'll
wreak the vengeance you've imagined.
Francis Bacon described revenge as a kind of 'wild justice'—a
phrase Susan Jacoby borrowed for the title of her 1983 book about the
history of revenge. That
history can be summarized as follows.
Long ago, many subscribed to a type of retributive justice
summarized as "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!"
During ages of faith, vengeance was out of fashion.
Many believed justice would ultimately prevail with God Himself
(or, in Eastern religions, karmic forces) administering punishment.
Some pointed out that the punishment could be considered evil,
and that "two wrongs don't make a right." Many agonized over
the problem of evil. (See Figure #17b.)
As civilizations grew more complex, the gap between "the
aggrieved individual and the administration of justice" (as Jacoby
put it) widened. Revenge
and vigilantism, the mob justice
that results when people—perceiving a large gap between crime and
punishment —take the law into their own hands, made a comeback.
Eventually most societies claimed the exclusive, legal right to
punish criminals, taking it out of the hands of aggrieved individuals.
A distinction was made between punishment— retributive
treatment (paying one back) involving suffering, pain or loss meant to
penalize offenders for wrongdoing, and discipline—treatment bringing
someone under control or imposing order in an effort to correct, reform,
or rehabilitate. Alongside more traditional retributive justice arose
newer conceptions and theories of justice: restorative and
By the 21st century you'd think such progressive developments would be universally benefiting humanity? Think again! Many parts of the world are troubled by blood feud vendettas, where the relatives of someone who has been killed retaliate by killing those deemed responsible for the initial wrong. Such acts, sometimes rooted in ancient hatred,
Why does an all powerful, all knowing God allow evil to
exist in the world?
are part of a retaliatory cycle of violence.
#17B: There is a simple way to stop ongoing cycles of
violence that plague humanity where it is still organized along ancient
tribal or ethnic divisions, and elsewhere to keep others from getting
started. The same remedy
can stop the "blaming games" that threaten to drag down and
destroy much smaller tribes in the otherwise more civilized world:
families. And it can rescue
individuals from negative mindsets created by the childish pursuit of
"when something goes wrong, find someone else to blame!" The remedy is not something new: its importance is
recognized in the ancient sacred texts of all the world's major
religions. It involves
deciding to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge—something
Forgiveness can be thought of as making a sacrifice and an
idealistic statement: you refuse to retaliate, and your example tells
people that nothing good could have come out of an evil, vengeful act
you might have committed. In
the real world however, many forgive out of self interest.
You unload resentment and suddenly no longer feel powerlessly
caught up in negative feelings toward others.
Those feelings include frustration—which you let go when you
quit thinking so much about those people
whose behavior you really have no control over.
When you stop blaming others, you realize the mental energy
expended in bringing negative thoughts into your head can now be put
toward positive ones—starting with being grateful for what you have!
This fosters peace of mind. Reduced anxieties have health
benefits: reduced blood pressure, lower heart rate, and less chronic
pain. You are not
forgetting or condoning what happened—you allow efforts
society has instigated to bring justice to proceed.
Instead you value the lesson this trauma has taught you: small
people blame others; big people accept personal responsibility, solve
problems as best they can, and try to make the world a better place.
Figure #17a: Types