Curb the Instinct of Revenge

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

The rule of an "an eye for an eye, " which on surface, appears to encourage revenge, was imposed by a king on his people, ironically, to curb and limit man's lust for revenge . 

The king was worried that in his kingdom, the vow to take revenge had gone out of control. The neighborhoods were strewn with the blood of revenge. Let's say, Ivan the Terrible insults his neighbor, John the Barbarian, or perhaps his wife "Barbara." Jolin the Barbarian publicly vows for revenge and cannot rest until he kills Ivan, his wife, or both. Then Ivan's family vows for revenge. Thus, the revenges and retaliations would follow generation after generation.  The rule of 
"tooth for tooth" and "an eye for an eye" was to limit indiscriminate acts of revenge: The rule dictates that if a man shoots you in the eye and puts your eye out of business, you may put out his eye but you shouldn't go after his life or the life of his family. I imagine the king must have slept soundly the day he decreed this law. 

Revenge begets revenge. That is the problem. Gandhi of India once said that if everyone followed the rule of an eye for an eye, we all would be walking blind.. Fortunately, we have people in this world who do not act on the impulse of taking revenge, or shall we say, who forego the pleasure of "sweet revenge. " What an intriguing choice of words, `sweet revenge," a fruit that grows out of pure bitterness! 

When a relationship gets sour and one or both partners start hurting each other, partner/s spend more energy in taking revenge and retaliating than in mending the relationship. They give up the desire to make it up to each other. Some admit that they get pleasure out of hurting the other. In a group meeting of "couples troubles, " a man was complaining about his wife calling him names. His wife admitted that she enjoyed calling him names. She felt guilty about it but she enjoyed it, nonetheless. She admitted that the more he hated it, the more she enjoyed it.

In another example, a man always finds a reason not to put the children to bed or take the trash out when it's his turn to do so. He knows it drives her crazy, but he does it anyway. This starts a chain of reaction. Revenge begets revenge. Now it's her turn to get him out of his kilter. She launches the war of underwear. She puts off the laundry, night after night, for the whole two weeks, and he runs out of clean underwear. She justifies her action to herself, "Why should he have everything so easy. "  

When a partner or partners get a huge satisfaction out of hurting the other and taking revenge for the arrows the other partner shot at him or her last time, they lose the motivation for mending the relationship. It is quite simple. There is more fun in fighting than in pussyfooting. Some relationship get even more pathological.  Partners would first hurt each other and then make it up. In any case, thoughts of revenge become a major preoccupation, and couples spend less time in doing any constructive work in relationship. 

The instinct of revenge may hurt the revenge more than the person who is the object of revenge. The close- minded and headstrong think, "I don't care what happens to me. I just want to make sure that he (or she) suffers. " We do immense harm to ourselves by trying to "get back at the other" or trying to "get even. " We get stuck and spend all the time and the energy in hurting the other. We neglect our careers and freeze our life-plans, all in the spirit of revenge. Remember others may be getting ahead while you are busy getting even. 

Just as human beings have an instinct to retaliate, they also have an instinct to repay kindness with kindness. Sometimes, all it takes is one act of kindness initiated by one person towards the other and that can set off a chain reaction of greater consideration for, and mutual accommodation of each other. 

My advice to anyone who is engaged in an open or silent revenge warfare is this, "Shake it off. " It's not worth it! What price do you pay to make sure that the person who is the object of your revenge pays? Ask yourself, "Who all is being hurt here? Make sure that you assess the harmful effect on yourself, your children, and other people who you love and care about. Is the satisfaction from revenge worth the total price you and others pay.

When the urge to hit back comes upon you, think before you act. Look at the price tag before you "buy" it. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of getting even. Do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages of getting even? Sometimes, it is best to pack up and cut your losses, so you can move on. It is better to let the other person get away with it so that you can get away from it. As you move on with your life, focus your energies on building yourself up. When you do well in whatever you chose to do, that revenge is the sweetest. 

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor