Archive for September 21, 2013

VENGEANCE AND REGAINING CONTROL   4 comments

Yesterday’s post recognized the built-in nature of vengeance. But I think if we probe further there is something more basic behind it. The need to regain control and order. Think of the expression “get even.” It’s as if we can bring things back into balance.

The animal in the wild who is attacked instinctively fights back to preserve his (or her) self and group. Behind it is survival — getting back to a level of safety. Safety implies familiarity — things returning to where they were.

The problem for us in our civilization is that we can never return things to the way they were. Whatever the offense, whether a terrible rape and murder or a personal insult, it is now a fact of life. That old urge to get even can’t work. There is no way to return to the way things were.

So, the best effort is to gain control. To find a way to bring order out of the chaos the offense created. And that’s where using our heads helps. That’s the basis for a realistic approach to whether and how to forgive — to let go our desire for vengeance and bring order — a new order — back into our lives.

It’s something we do for our own sanity and comfort. Does it mean the crime goes unpunished? Probably not. Punishment applied appropriately, untainted by vengeance, may be one way of reassuring ourselves of safety in the future. But back to the issue of vengeance. The basic fact still is, vengeance breeds vengeance — and so is lost the safety we’re after.

Thoughts?

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