Revenge -- A Natural Evil
Updated: Jun 25
As described in previous articles on the topic of evil, evil can be simply defined as voluntary maliciousness, also known as the willingness to cause harm to another for harm's sake. This means to willingly make them suffer due to whatever motive intended to cause any kind of damage to a person or entity.
Many may argue that man is good by nature. However, that generalization ignores what is perhaps the most common of evils in our nature, which is revenge, also known as the desire to inflict harm of whatever kind as a result of oneself being harmed previously. If it weren't for that original harm, that responsive maliciousness wouldn't occur in the first place. That is perhaps how this evil spreads—by the difficulty of accepting the fact that one was harmed without the appropriate retribution.
When institutionalized, that evil is prevented by justice, in the form of punishment. However, since the law doesn't always help nor is properly enforced, the void left by an otherwise-helping third party is often replaced by the vengeance of the former victim of the originally-inflicted misery.
Even though we often despise evil, and rightfully so, if someone punches us in the face, it's hard not to return the favor by doing the same malicious act. This would make us no better than them, especially if we are physically capable of making them regret their actions and not letting them get away with it.
Revenge is a product of wanting to settle the score, and a form of telling ourselves that we are not weaklings. Regardless of the motive, voluntary maliciousness is still maliciousness once it is executed. It is also the same evil that can get us arrested for harassment, violence, trespassing, and property damage. Assuming that these acts are sinister, revenge can indeed be seen as a form of evil that can emerge even from the most law-abiding members of society.
Do you think revenge is not a form of evil, even if it is done in the name of justice? Porky Minch, the love-to-hate main antagonist of the MOTHER video game series, is an example of such evil. He was driven to commit evil acts by the abuse he received from his parents and the social rejection he felt from his best friend. If it weren't for these experiences, he might never have become the dystopian dictator who attempted to destroy reality just to "make anyone who doesn't like me gone."
(Note: It is important to remember that revenge is not, necessarily, justice. Justice is about fairness and equality, while revenge is about getting even. It's about getting back at those who caused you misfortune. Revenge is often motivated by anger and hatred, which can lead to more violence and suffering. In the end, revenge only perpetuates the cycle of evil.
And only when that hunger of revenge is finally fed, it can be put to rest. Otherwise, it will only continue to grow, no matter how hard we may try to overcome it. Thus, forgiveness should, eventually, be an option.)
And the thing is, this character isn't some sort of an inhuman alien or monster with no human emotions. They were just like any other kid you might find in kindergarten or elementary school. That's how far, theoretically, revenge can take you if you let it become your master. And that's why revenge is evil and yet, a natural part of many humans. It is very tempting, both emotionally (the passion) and morally (to even the odds).
But unlike Porky, who reached genocidal scales of vengeance, all we have to do to stop revenge from dominating our mentality, is to know when we should move on in favour of better pursuits in our limited lifespan, since once evolved into obsession, revenge can turn you a criminal, murderer or even a terrorist. This is how much revenge is embedded into our nature, that some are willing to take it that far.
As a seeker of peace, I learned something important about revenge -- that it is often an obstacle to true serenity the more it dominates your existence, and the more it does so, the harder it would be to rest in peace while among the living. Like a car that cuts you off at traffic and is driving far away for you to be able to do anything, so are many instances of tempting resentments. Let them drive away when it is the wise thing to do, and long-term peace would be easier to attain.
Finally, I would like to add that the concept of revenge sounds to me very similar to the phenomenon of energy conversion. The "energy" of harm is delivered by one party to the other, and in order to do something with the negative "energy" one has received, revenge is indeed one of the ways of handling that energy by delivering it back to someone else.
Conflict in general appears to be a social and psychological form of emotional and moral "energy" conversion, even though there are other means of doing so (art, protest, physical exercise, and so forth). We humans are highly responsive creatures, and it is often hard for us to leave an issue that means a lot to us unsolved.
Acts of infamy are indeed one of the ways to sound and deliver our "negative energies" to the world, because gathering it all inside us is far from easy. This can lead some of us to deprive the good of those whom we think deserve to be punished in some way for whatever they have caused us. We need to restrain ourselves, in short. It is the wise thing to do.