This past week presented me with an opportunity to re-think an old issue–trying to understand what the difference is between anger and revenge. It appears to many this is the same issue just spelled differently. I have come to understand them as being very different from one another.
Anger is an emotion. It is often triggered in us as a response to something unjust–something that has happened that is wrong, unwanted or something that has challenged us in some way for which we may have no reply. For instance, being criticized in public in the presence of family or friends or being challenged in some way that is clearly an effort to embarrass us. Our response to anger is usually not pre-meditated but rather a defensive act of some kind either verbal but sometimes physical. Anger is also very powerful. It can be used to summon energy or direct emotional energy into an act that sometimes focuses on a reply that is not warranted or is not calculated. It just happens. I’ve known people to experience ‘whiteouts’ meaning losing all sense of what is happening around them at a particular time and then becoming aware that damage of some kind has been done to another person or property.
ANGER can also be used as a force for change-a cause of some kind. It can be used to focus on creating positive outcomes when tenacity may be needed to stay a particular course of action. Anger can be used to mobilize and motivate people to become engaged in social change where ‘wrongs’ have been perpetrated on those who have little or no political power-no voice. Perhaps they are people who are always being used in some way for the gain of others. It could be about helping the homeless folks receive a better deal than they are getting currently. It can also help us deal with danger and threats to our personal safety. The point is anger is NOT always a negative thing.
So anger is an emotion. It is usually displayed as a more immediate reaction to a threat or challenge of some kind. Seldom is it planned.
REVENGE is a crafted response that has been created after thought and consideration over a period of time. There is no real good that can come from acts or behaviours that are born from ‘getting even, proving a point or showing up the other guy’. I can hear many who are reading this groaning about another ‘do gooder’ or ‘bleeding heart’ but the fact remains that some people spend countless days, weeks or even years planning and plotting their revenge. Hate grows and poisons people to the point where they can think or feel nothing but negative emotions. There is no room for joy or celebration and certainly no chance to gain any peace.
Some believe that to do nothing about a perceived wrong would be, in some way, disloyal or perhaps indicate that you don’t care about what happened. That is not true at all. We all show our grief in different ways. I admit it feels good sometimes when a bad guy gets what he has coming to him/her but it is short lived. In the end it is not as satisfying as the planner would have hoped. Once the deed is done there is a huge vacuum left in us with nothing to fill it with. As good as it may feel at the time the ‘bad guy’ wins again because he/she has stolen something from us and we gave it up willingly–our time.
The other day a guy asked me the inevitable question: what if someone took or hurt your child. Wouldn’t you want to get even? Wouldn’t you want to hurt that other person so bad so they would know what it felt like to be hurt as they hurt others? Honestly–damn right I would. I would want to see justice done. I would want that to be at my hand. No doubt about it.
The power of revenge has no bounds really. I know, for me, I would not want to waste my precious time on someone who didn’t deserve another minute of it. I would not spend time trying to ‘forgive’ nor would I try to forget. I would spend time, I hope, remembering my child and how precious he/she was and how important they were to me. I would want to remember what good they brought to the world. I would honour them and I would cry for them and I would live my life for them as well. Spending time plotting and scheming would only find me in a negative hole so deep I would not be able to climb out and carrying through with the plot to ‘get even’ would not help me escape the pit I had fallen into. Truthfully I’m not sure how I would overcome that but I do know what I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t keep the hurt alive by remembering it everyday. That’s what happens when we try to figure out how to make the other guy pay.
So revenge is a behaviour. I understand that it is fuelled by an emotion but I ultimately have control over how much time and energy I will spend on planning and plotting my revenge. Once I execute my plan or plot I realize that nothing can or will be the same again. I’m not sure that is the legacy my child, using this example, would want from me.
Anyways, that’s how I see things.
All the best, Jim
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