Revenge is a dish best served cold!

If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?

William Shakespeare

The theme of revenge is abused in Asian film and drama. Almost every piece has at least one character trying to even the score or playing out a vendetta because they believe someone intentionally set out to hurt or harm them. It appears excessive, but, revenge is a real-world struggle for real-world beings.

Also not unusual in scripts or screenplay writing is collective or collaborative vengeance — the shaming or causing injury to a person by a group of people (family, business partners, romantic relationships, communities, businesses, etc.)

I’ve seen every kind of revenge plot out there, as I am sure you have done, but, it wasn’t until I started watching dramas that I actually understood that revenge is a primal instinct.

Whether you’re religious or not, you will likely have heard or read the phrase, ‘eye for an eye” or “tooth for a tooth’. It is taken directly from the Bible – Exodus 21:23. It can be interpreted as a clear instruction on how to punish an offender, or, an excuse to avenge a wrongdoer. It may have described the justice of ancient times, but now some 2,000 plus years later our justice system has evolved to explore the deeper aspects of perceived wrongs and there are legal routes to seek justice.

So the question remains: Is revenge completely wrong?

If people live in a country where the rule of law is weak, acts of revenge may be the only way to keep order and get some kind of justice. But, revenge comes at a price!

More often than not, revenge holds a person prisoner — they dwell on conceived slights and personal injury to their pride. Being consumed with vengeance prevents them from moving on with life. While acting out vengeance gives an initial sense of satisfaction, there is no lasting happiness.

In all my years on the planet, I’ve come to understand that it’s often people who are condescending towards authority, but respect traditions and social dominance that are more inclined to act on feelings of revenge. In other words, people with these types of personalities are less forgiving and benevolent.

But, I also understand that it’s not only personality that factors into whether a person will enact revenge.

Where a person lives and their cultural background can also factor into a decision to act on vengeful feelings. For example, in Canada, where I currently live, people feel very strongly and are easily offended when their rights are violated. In contrast, Koreans feel very strongly and easily offended when their sense of duty and obligation is threatened.

Differences like these can lead to intercultural conflicts where one party interprets an affront differently to the way the other party interprets it. Many wars have been started because of perceived slights and misinterpreted conflict. A great example of this is the current ‘tit-for-tat’ going on between Donald J. Trump and Kim Jung Un. Diplomacy has been thrown out the door and a very personal vendetta is playing out that has nothing to do with nuclear capabilities.

So what can you do if you start having thoughts of revenge?

  • Being mindful of thoughts, feelings and internal dialogue is the first step.
  • Accept your urges and thoughts of revenge as a basic human response. related to trust.
  • Understand the relationship between trust and revenge. When you’re feeling vengeful it’s likely because you believe your trust has been broken.
  • Wait until you can think rationally and are calmed emotionally – if you act impulsively you are likely to create more suffering for yourself and may regret your actions.
  • Consider whether the loss of trust is justified – maybe there was a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, or maybe there is a problem that could be solved.
  • Weigh your options – will dialogue with the offending person help? Can mediation or legal recourse help?
  • Learn from the experience – Were you careful about whom you trusted? Did your decisions that reflect your values, regardless of how the other person behaved?
  • Focus on what you can control – sometimes it may be that standing up for yourself is the right step, but doing so in a positive way rather than for revenge.
  • Understand that some people will break your trust and practice radical acceptance.

Some of the people closest to us hurt us the most – lovers, spouses, children, family members and friends. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not, but they’re uniquely positioned to affect our lives and the most likely to be resented for acts of unfairness or wrongdoing. We need to accept that parents make mistakes, siblings can be selfish, lovers can be unfaithful, and friends can betray their friends.

Revenge may be sweet, but sticking pins into a voodoo doll is far more satisfying!




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