How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The Need for Revenge
When we feel wronged or harmed by others, we seek to punish them, causing them pain and suffering.
The punishment of revenge is often far more significant than the harm originally caused.
A person is insulted by another in a public meeting. They take revenge by exposing personal secrets about the other person that are highly damaging.
A manager in a company has their plans for promotion thwarted by an employee who takes revenge for being passed over for promotion by criticizing the manager through gossip and the grapevine.
Revenge is related to the needs for fairness and status. It is about correcting attempts by others to put themselves above us. In a social context it sends a clear message to others that we are not to be crossed. In this way revenge adds the intent to dissuade to a simple balancing in the manner or 'an eye for an eye'.
Revenge can also be about the need to defend and protect. When a person threatens or harms someone we care about, we feel angry and easily seek to harm them in return.
Before the social message or preventive dissuasion that may be sought, revenge just makes feel good. 'Revenge is sweet' as the saying goes. Yet it seldom makes things right and, once served, can leave us feeling empty, dissatisfied and perhaps regretful about actions that later seem out of character and against our values. Paradoxically we may even blame the other person for being like this and consequently seek further revenge.
It is also said that 'revenge is a dish best served cold'. This implies waiting until anger has subsided, which is generally a wise move as actions taken under the influence of anger are often later regretted.
The anger in revenge can lead us to a disproportionate response that triggers reciprocal vengeance and so precipitate ongoing feuding. We may forget other, more humane forms of justice, such as seeking reparation or restoration. Even a simple apology can be enough to make us feel better.
Beware of taking revenge as it may be sweet at the time but it often has unforeseen backlashes, from the person affected taking revenge against your revenge as a feud starts, to others judging you as being unkind and worse than the person on whom you are inflicting your revenge.
The best revenge is often to take the moral high ground while letting those who attack you appear as being morally degenerate.