• Action taken in return for an injury or offence
  • Take revenge for a perceived wrong

I was listening to the broadcast of the trial of a well known dictator and murderer, last week, where he was sentenced to death by hanging for the crimes he committed. One of the spectators was asked whether he thought it was a good thing he was being hanged, and he said:

“Hanging is too good for him, he deserves much worse than that”

I thought this was interesting. I would have thought that seeing someone’s life extinguished by breaking their neck by hanging, would normally be sufficient punishment; after all, in legal terms, it is the ultimate punishment. Death (the event of dying or departure from life). So I thought to myself: “Why is death not enough?” It can only be one thing: Revenge.

If someone rapes or murders your child, or someone close to you, how would you feel? Hurt, depressed, angry, shocked? Yes, but if you could get hold of the person who hurt the one you love, what would you do to them in the moment? Beat them, stab them, strangle them, or hurt them so much so they would know how much you hurt at the loss of your close family member?

Even violent gangsters, who may regularly murder rivals, feel such grief, hurt, anger at losing one of their own loved ones. They vow to find out who did it, promise to torture them, make them suffer, then kill them and their whole family.

Let’s face it, revenge makes you feel better doesn’t it? And certain religious texts condone it as well. So why not? Someone takes away the thing you cherish the most, and you hurt and suffer terribly at your loss.

So you decide to deal with the hurt and suffering you feel, by doing exactly the same as the person did to your loved one, to them; and normally you want to make them suffer more – just for putting you through all this.

I want revenge!
I will take my revenge!
We’ll get our revenge!

Let me ask you. When you take your revenge, how do you feel? Well, much better I would suppose. You have righted a wrong, done to you, and that’s the end of it. They murder someone you love, you murder someone they love.

I would call this hurt transference. You feel hurt so you want someone else to feel exactly the way you do, and revenge covers this quite nicely, thank you. So in essence, revenge is just away of dealing with hurt emotions, that’s all.

Even the most peaceful, non-violent man, who hears his ten year old daughter has been raped and murdered, feels revenge boiling inside him. He’ll hurt the man who hurt his daughter, he’ll make him pay. And believe me, revenge is a very real emotion. It sits just beside hurt.
It’s not hate, it’s not aggression, it is a one-off, an emotion brought to the surface for one time only – to take action, in return for a specific offence (“He slept with my wife.” “She hurt my feelings.” “He destroyed my career.” “She ran off with my friend.” “He cheated me out of money.”), although the action taken may be disproportionate for the offence caused. “He slept with my wife, so I killed him.”

This is revenge (not for the offence committed), but for the emotion generated, and that emotion is hurt (psychological suffering, cause emotional anguish or make miserable).

Even aggressive, violent people feel hurt. They are not immune. Hurt is one of the strongest emotions in humans, generated typically by feelings of loss or betrayal, usually something that another human being has done to them or is perceived to have done. “I lost my business and my wife because if him. He’s going to pay.” And when someone says “he’s going to pay” they do not generally mean financially, because once hurt has been unleashed it stirs a feeling unmatched by any other, especially if the perceived cause was someone in a position of trust like a friend.

Let’s look at this closely.
If someone breaches your trust you feel hurt, and if you also have lost something you value or love you will feel hurt plus anger, and that begins to generate feelings of revenge. You want to show the person who hurt your feelings how hurt you are that they hurt yours, and in order to do that you have to hurt them! Does that make sense?

“My daughter was killed by a drunk driver, I want him to suffer as much as she did.”

I’m sure you’ve heard that on the news. The father sobbing violently, his anger almost uncontrollable. He has just heard the news that the man will get off with a two year ban and a large fine, but no prison term, and he just can’t bear the news. “It’s too lenient. My daughter is dead. In a couple of years, that man will be back on the roads, but my daughter will still be dead.”

He’s not thinking about how his daughter felt at the exact violent moment when the car struck her, throwing her body into the air and crushing her bones, but more how he feels. It is his loss. He is grieving for himself, not her, even though she is the one who is dead! He feels hurt that he has lost someone he loves. It is he who feels sorry for himself. He is hurt and someone must pay. But think of this.

If the man had been sentenced to ten or twenty years, would that be enough for the father out to avenge the death of his daughter? I don’t think it would be; in the same way the spectator said that hanging was too good for the dictator. Even death was not enough.

I think what we want, is to inflict suffering on the person. Not just a prison sentence or death, but unlimited suffering determined only by us, by how much hurt we feel, until we don’t feel hurt anymore. That’s why the man, who wants to make someone suffer in revenge, would not kill him instantly with a bullet. With a bullet, there is no “cleansing of emotions.” He would rather torture him and kill him slowly with a knife, while he begged for his life.

No one can put a limit on how much suffering is enough to satisfy revenge, it is purely subjective. The suffering of the person who caused the loss is directly related to how much suffering and hurt the person taking revenge feels. That is why hanging is not enough, a bullet too quick, and twenty years not long enough.

So how do I transcend this feeling of hurt, and reach forgiveness – but miss out the act of revenge?

Forgiveness is only possible after the grieving period is over, whether your wife ran off with your best friend, or your child was murdered.
In the beginning, you cannot think of anything apart from how hurt you are, but consider that the very reason you are hurt is because of the love you felt for the person you have lost. This means that you can experience love, and if you can love, then you can forgive. Forgiveness is love.

You are showing that you can love the person who caused you pain. This is very hard for most people to come to terms with, but it is this very act of forgiveness that is responsible for allowing you to be at peace with yourself. If you cannot forgive, you will be stuck in the cycle of hurt, anger and revenge.

Hurt and anger are natural emotions to experience at the loss of a loved one, but the next action must be forgiveness. Remember, the person who was driving the car and killed your daughter, or murdered your child, or ran off with your wife, has to live with themselves for the rest of their lives. In forgiving them, you do not excuse their actions, but rather acknowledge that you feel hurt, and accept that this action was not directed at you personally and forgive them. You don’t have to say it to their face, but if you say:

“I forgive you”

out loud, you not only show your capacity for love, but free yourself from being locked into a negative pattern of thinking your whole life. You see, the only alternative to forgiveness, is revenge, where you serve unlimited suffering on the person who caused offence.

But believe it or not, when you are standing in the court accused of murdering the man who murdered your daughter, his brother is now planning to avenge his brother’s death by murdering you. And so the cycle of violence continues.

He killed her.
I’ll make him suffer.
I’ll make him wish he wasn’t born,
I’ll make him pay!

I’ll cut off his hands, one at a time,
Then his ears, one by one.
A leg, a foot an arm then his throat,
He’ll wish he hadn’t made me hurt.

Forgive him? Never!
He destroyed my life,
He raped and killed my only child.
The one I loved, the one I cherished,
I’d gladly hang, to see him die.

by alan macmillan orr

“The Natural Mind-waking up”



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