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Dr. Helen

Is Revenge a Healthy Emotion?

April 11th, 2013 - 2:36 pm

I skimmed over a new book by Law Professor Thane Rosenbaum entitled Payback: The Case for Revenge. The title was intriguing and the book description sounded interesting:

We call it justice—the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the incarceration of corrupt politicians or financiers like Rod Blagojevich and Bernard Madoff, and the climactic slaying of cinema-screen villains by superheroes. But could we not also call it revenge? We are told that revenge is uncivilized and immoral, an impulse that individuals and societies should actively repress and replace with the order and codes of courtroom justice. What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim’s individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback: The Case for Revenge—revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice.

Revenge, Rosenbaum argues, is not the problem. It is, in fact, a perfectly healthy emotion. Instead, the problem is the inadequacy of lawful outlets through which to express it. He mounts a case for legal systems to punish the guilty commensurate with their crimes as part of a societal moral duty to satisfy the needs of victims to feel avenged. Indeed, the legal system would better serve the public if it gave victims the sense that vengeance was being done on their behalf. Drawing on a wide range of support, from recent studies in behavioral psychology and neuroeconomics, to stories of vengeance and justice denied, to revenge practices from around the world, to the way in which revenge tales have permeated popular culture—including Hamlet, The Godfather, and Braveheart—Rosenbaum demonstrates that vengeance needs to be more openly and honestly discussed and lawfully practiced.

In the introduction, the author says that human beings long for justice and fairness. “We accept legal rulings when justice is served–not simply when the law has spoken. If we don’t feel the just in justice, we will walk away from the law, like any unavenged victim who knows hat the score remains unsettled and that payback is still owed. This is why running away from revenge, pretending that reclaiming honor is not an honorable pursuit, presents similar moral consequences as living in a society where the guilty go unpunished while citizens are asked to accept that justice was done.”

In our collective, PC society, there are many instances of unfairness on a regular basis: the man who is falsely accused of rape while his accuser suffers no consequences, the student who is denied a degree based on her political beliefs or the man who has his children taken away because he is unfairly accused of sexual abuse. The anger and feelings of distrust are swept under the rug by society but the feelings inside stay, bubbling beneath the surface, but there nonetheless. We do a disservice by telling people to get over it, for without justice (or what the author calls revenge), our citizens have no trust, and hence, no moral obligation to be fair to each other.

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All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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My idea is that kings got involved in punishing personal wrongs in order to prevent feuds from destabilizing their societies. Originally, punishment/revenge was a family responsibility, and the king/government did not care.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In 1945, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In 1945, the US nuked Japan. Problem solved. *Sometimes*, revenge is the answer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Success is the best revenge. - attributed to Frank Sinatra, Madonna and Dennis Rodman. If it's a situation where you can take that route, as I did in my divorce/custody proceedings, it gives an especially sweet feeling. In my case, my kids prefer my company to their mother's because she's whacko and I'm not, plus I have now have the material where-with-all that I and they need. She can't hurt me or them if she tries. It kills her and her borderline personality that we're all free and immune to her machinations.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We live in the atheist age and when the agnostic who has been wronged rise up in his passion what else do they have to hold on to but good justice and atheist find great joy again in his short atheist life by revenge
Few Christians are like the Amish and tun the other cheek toward the mass murderer. But consider their method of arriving at the other cheek turned which must sound wacko to the atheist.
Saint Paul quoting from the hebrew/greek old teastament prophets revelation writes in the 2000 year old ancient text
Romons 3
There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”[b]
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”[c]
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.

we all deserve this death penalty . This is why I have empathy for the atheist and agnostic when God gives them the death penality and they end up hating god for this or say: there is no god there is no god
Saint Paul continues in Romans 4
Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven whose sins are covered
Blessed is the one whose sin the lord will never count against him"
This is GRACE to receive eternal life but this could make the atheist yell louder for the injustice of not being worthy as righteous as he mat appear
Now we can understand why the fallen angels howl and war against god how sinner flesh humans are chosen over their angels of light appearance and their last stand is to create the righteous atheist
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
so that is how the amish reasonong
Romans 12:19

The Message (MSG)

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Yet I have empathy for atheist age and the wronged agnostic rising up in passion like Sparticus and how now in our modern world we can put perform on this revenge hairless pig
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would note that part of the official societal aversion to revenge is the fact that placing the disposition of reaction to harmful acts [call it law, revenge, justice, or whatever] in the hands of an anonymous, faceless institution gives tremendous power and opportunities for the discretionary exercise of that power to those who run that institution. And simultaneously reduces the power of the general population. In this, and all other matters.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think that direct revenge is frowned upon because expressing it creates the opportunity for collateral damage. Imagine two people or groups in a cycle of revenge. Sooner or later they are going to damage the lives of previously uninvolved people who have done nothing wrong. The more impassioned these people/groups are, the less likely they will care about collateral damage and the more likely they will demand attention and assistance from the previously uninvolved. These uninvolved don't really care who was injured, how badly or why. They just don't want their own lives to be damaged. themselves.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
People need checks and balances otherwise you get locked into a cycle of revenge as Bob says. Also, revenge is a check on bad behavior (had a kid when I was in school that liked to hit people, if you hit back he only hit you once. There were some kids he hit anytime no one was looking) Some people can't scale properly either - my dog goes in your yard, you burn my house down. Justice is when the scales balance and it is time for the cycle to be broken.

Pity it doesn't work like that in our system today-too much forgiveness is only permission to carry on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I see revenge different from Capital Punishment.
Revenge is trying to use a voodoo doll and see if you can make your nemesis itch and crick.
Killing Sadam or Osama is a necessity to protect the lives of future generations. Killing a mass murderer (I know that some do not believe in the death penatly in the U.S) prevents future murders, rather than have the person live a dismal life in jail (and frankly, no criminal should be living anything more than a "dismally" in jail.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It takes a lot of energy to be angry and full of hatred all the time. Its generally better to forgive and forget, then move on to something new.

Whenever one has the possibility of carrying on, of pursuing an open unlimited future, revenge is rarely a profitable activity.

The only people or institutions who are truly deserving of painful revenge are those who actively seek to prevent others from having an open unlimited future.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Its generally better to forgive and forget"

No, it is not. One forgives accidents, not intentional acts. If someone does you and yours purposeful harm, it will fester until you set things to right.

Forgiveness must follow contrition. someone who does something terrible to you by accident will feel terrible about it and will apologize for it. Forgiveness is then the remedy for you both. Someone who harms you, and who is not contrite must not be forgiven. Even God does not forgive your sins, unless you repent of them first.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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