Retaliation and Revenge

Retaliation and Revenge

We have all been wronged at some point, but that doesn’t mean we should seek revenge.

Don't be such an elbow

One of the reasons it is so difficult for managers and teachers to deal with bullying and harassment is that it looks so much like conflict.  Most people, when they are hurt get mad. Anger is a defense mechanism (see: Managing Anger in Yourself and Others by Dr. Leon Seltzer – https://humanistlearning.com/angermanagement101/).

The problem is that anger isn’t very rational. When you are mad, your instinct and desire is to hurt the person or thing that is making you mad so that you can get away from it. Fight/Flight. It is no wonder that when we feel we have been wronged in some way, many of us seek revenge.  We retaliate. An eye for an eye.
What is interesting is that this tit for tat retaliatory response is considered a religious legal principle (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_for_an_eye).

But as Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.”  Which is why most legal systems exist. Without a legal system, tit for tat leads to blood feuds where the retaliatory punishments get worse and worse.  This happens because often, retaliation is worse than the original crime.

But what has this got to do with us? And our problems and needs and desires? Revenge rarely ends well. Retaliation hurts the person doing the retaliation often as much as the person they are targeting.

As a Humanist, I don’t want to be hurt, nor do I want to hurt other people, if I can avoid it. So when I get mad and fantasies of revenge start playing in my brain I stop them and remind myself that I am better than that. I would rather fix the problem than feel self-righteous and make things worse.

Seeking revenge and retaliation tends to make things worse, not better. So seek to do and to be better. This is particularly important in a professional situation. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been personally attacked and I’ve never retaliated. And I’ve always won the conflict as a result.

Be the better person and get better results. You will be glad you did.