“Revenge only engenders violence, not clarity and true peace. I think liberation must come from within.”

~ Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros (1954 – ) is Mexican by heritage and spent her childhood migrating with her family between Mexico City and Chicago – where she attended high school and studied for her degree. She is a venerated Chicana writer who struggled with her cultural identity throughout her youth. She is best known for her novel House on Mango Street where she tells the stories of the marginalised women with whom she identifies.

In this quote, Cisneros points out that revenge itself is an act couched in a desire to inflict some suffering upon another. As such, it seeks to do harm, not good, and will, therefore, foster the same desire within the targeted person or party.

Psychologists tell us that the desire for revenge when we feel wronged is a natural reaction, and therefore universal to all individuals. The anger we feel after we have been duped, treated cruelly or unfairly is what triggers the desire for revenge. Naturally, we want to hit back. Having said that, we are encouraged to talk ourselves down from the anger and move past it to arrive at “… clarity and true peace.”

Experts in human behaviour suggest that the act of revenge is barbarous. It represents the giving into our basest instincts and causes one to confuse revenge with justice. In a civilised society, we need to rise above these base instincts and strive for better ways to handle situations that inflict pain upon us. To fail to do so demeans our humanity.

Probably the best argument against revenge is the one quoted above. No good ever comes from retribution because it inspires more attacks and creates a vicious circle. We harm ourselves when we act out of revenge because we have lowered ourselves to the level of the savage. We also harm society as a whole when we perpetrate such acts by modelling poor behaviour and inciting violence among others to get involved in support of injured parties.

I remember a saying I heard years ago. “Always put your brain in gear before putting your mouth in motion.” Strong emotions like anger tend to derail our thought processes, and it is, therefore, difficult to think rationally when in the grips of a white-hot passion. As rational beings, we have the ability to analyse a situation and choose the best course of action from available options. Unfortunately, it is not our rational side that is triggered when we have suffered cruel or unfair treatment, but our emotions instead. As human beings, we are all born with these predilections. These instincts, in more primitive times, helped us react quickly to threats so that we could survive. Self-defence is entirely justified, but vengeance is not.

The final sentence of this quote talks about spiritual liberation, and I believe that Cisneros is calling us to liberate ourselves from our emotions. I’m not suggesting that emotions are wrong or evil – they just are. They exist, and each of us has to deal with them every single day. As well, I’m not proposing we operate as Star Trek’s Mr Spock by denying our emotions and become beings of pure logic, either. I should celebrate every aspect of my humanity and recognise all of the wonder and beauty therein. I need to understand that I have base instincts that need to be mastered if I am to become the civilised being that I aspire to be.


About John Fioravanti

Author, John Fioravanti writes non-fiction as well as fiction in the sci-fi genre. He's a retired secondary school educator and a lifelong learner. He considers himself a work in progress and welcomes the opinions and insights that others may have about his work. He prizes dialogue about meaningful topics, so please leave your thoughts!

20 thoughts on “REVENGE: WHY NOT? #RRBC

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    May 14, 2017 at 4:24pm

    […] post on revenge is worth a read – retribution = the opposite of […]

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    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    January 26, 2017 at 11:58am

    You are right of course..revenge is a self-perpetuating and very harmful response to actions that have hurt ourselves or others. I do like to see justice done to those who inflict harm in one form or another and that is why we have the courts.. However, when it comes to those who harm us physically, emotionally and mentally there is I believe, a right to receive satisfaction. This does not require violence or doing any harm to the person. It means rising above them and showing them that you are better, stronger and living a good life. Nothing is more galling to a bully to find that they are not worth the attention. It can be incredibly hard to come back from some of the actions that are taken against you, particularly as a child, but when you do it is incredibly empowering.

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      John Fioravanti

      January 26, 2017 at 2:58pm

      Exactly, Sally – it is the rising above that empowers us to become more than we are and to live better than we had dreamed. Once achieved, the response of the bully is no longer relevant. Thanks for visiting and leaving your thoughts!

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    Mae Clair

    January 26, 2017 at 9:11am

    It’s often hard to move past something when we feel we’ve been wronged, but dwelling on it or seeking revenge does no good. Thoughts of revenge are like a cancer eating away at the spirit.

    I like your reference to “Always put your brain in gear before putting your mouth in motion.”
    Words to live by!

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      John Fioravanti

      January 26, 2017 at 9:25am

      I think your cancer analogy is most apt, Mae. Personally, my emotional responses in these situations are very difficult to control. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

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    John W. Howell

    January 25, 2017 at 12:56pm

    It is said “when seeking revenge dig two graves. One is for the the person from whom you seek revenge and one is for you.” You have stated how harmful the act of revenge can be and how uplifting forgiveness would be instead. Thanks, John

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    January 25, 2017 at 12:02pm

    I do think that this is so true. A lovely, well thought-out post. If we give in to our more basic emotions we will all end up like the boys in Lord of the Flies.

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      John Fioravanti

      January 25, 2017 at 1:02pm

      I can’t argue with you there. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts!

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      John Fioravanti

      January 25, 2017 at 11:29am

      Thanks, Jo, I agree. I write these reminders for myself, as I fear I need them more than many others. Thanks for stopping by with your thoughts.

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    Jan Hawke

    January 25, 2017 at 10:59am

    Interesting that you touch on the relationship between justice and revenge, John. Having worked in the civil law courts in the UK (so not criminal cases although there was a cross-over with domestic violence or abuse and financial fraud).
    Up until the last century, few people saw much of a difference in legal sentencing and retribution, which is certainly the ‘clean’ face of revenge, outside of the law. Convicted criminals must ‘pay’ for their crimes. Sometimes the law makes mistakes and the wrong people are freed, or imprisoned. This happens most when there is a public outcry for immediate punishment and the police are too keen to bring in a culprit. Any culprit.
    That’s the reason why I’m so anti capital punishment, no matter how that’s achieved. However, I also believe that, for some crimes, there is a need for restitution in law. In cases where a life is taken and/or destroyed in some manner, the perpetrator’s life sentence should mean exactly that. The confiscation of physical liberty does not cancel out repentance, or an epiphany that can mean redemption in some form. What it does do, is honour the life lost and the pain of those directly affected by that taking of existence.
    In that way only, the punishment fits the crime, without barbaric ‘violence’ in the form of execution, legal or not.

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      John Fioravanti

      January 25, 2017 at 11:14am

      Capital punishment is a bit of a ‘sticky wicket’. Emotionally, it appeals to me, but rationally, it is a very bad idea. If a person wrongs another and does not break the law, we’re talking about personal vengeance. When society deals with a lawbreaker, it does so for the safety of all, not just for the benefit of the victim or victim’s family. There just aren’t any easy answers. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views, Jan!

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    Gwen Plano

    January 25, 2017 at 8:39am

    Wow, what a journey you’ve taken us on! It’s interesting, I love the tv drama Blue Bloods – the setting, the characters, the action. And, I love it when the bad guys get what they deserve. Don’t we all? As for personal revenge, I think at heart we want our offender to understand our pain. We want them to somehow bridge the divide they’ve created – to mend what’s broken, to restore life as it was. Ultimately, as you’ve said so well, it is we who must craft our way. ☺

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      John Fioravanti

      January 25, 2017 at 8:47am

      Thanks, Gwen – I love Blue Bloods and other TV shows like it because I enjoy seeing justice done. I think that is a good thing that society enforces the law and punishes the guilty after due process – despite the fact that sometimes the guilty go free and the innocent are punished wrongly. Personal vengeance is different, but I agree about our motive to make the offender feel our pain. Unfortunately, satisfying that desire doesn’t end well for us. It is a struggle. Thanks for leaving your thoughts, Gwen!

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