Monday, August 17, 2009


There are very few of us who don’t have at least a little part of us that want people to suffer when they hurt us. In its mildest form, this may mean just getting the teeniest bit of pleasure when someone who has hurt us goes through their own pain, through no fault of our own. It is even better when their suffering is caused through their own doing. A bit like guilt-free revenge, in a way. Kind of like ‘Well God showed you, didn’t he?’

Then there are the times when we imagine the terrible things we would like to have happen to a person who has hurt us. It could mean just spending a brief moment picturing something slightly discomforting. At the other end, it could mean spending countless hours actively plotting their ruin and downfall. There’s a big difference between the two, but nevertheless, both are dangerous.

Firstly, when we spend any time engaging in mental revenge, there’s a good chance we are carrying out another form of revenge. Sure we may not be carrying out the big email campaign against Jane Doe, who stole our idea at work. We may not be going through her files and destroying her work. We may not be ringing up our boss anonymously, pretending to be the police investigating Jane Doe for murder. But we’re probably doing at least something to make Jane Doe suffer, even if it’s not what we would really like to do.

How are we talking about Jane Doe to other work colleagues? Are we trying to poison their minds against her? Are we treating Jane Doe in the same way we would treat other people? If she leaves something on a desk, do we return it to her? Or do we leave it, because it belongs to that silly woman who stole our idea? And what’s our attitude towards Jane Doe like? It is almost impossible to have a good attitude towards someone, when we are spending a lot of time imagining their suffering. Are we using every opportunity to show Jane that we are don’t like her? Are we trying to make her feel guilty?

Trying to make someone feel guilty is probably one of the top ways that people try to make others suffer for the hurt they have caused. Sometimes there’s no even the conscious desire for revenge. But the subconscious desire to make someone suffer for what they did is still there. I know it’s a generalisation, but I think wives are the ones who do this most often. Their husband hurts them. So they pout and they cry and they huff and give the cold shoulder and they withdraw affection. They might say they’re doing it because they are hurt. There’s a good chance they are also doing it because they want their husband to suffer for what he did.

The other danger with imagining some misfortune befalling those that have hurt us is that what starts off as brief harmless fantasy can quickly turn to an all-consuming desire to revenge. It starts to become all we think about. It destroys our peace. It can affect our relationships. Eventually, it can get to the stage where we feel we will never be happy until that person gets what they deserve.

There are three options when we’re in that place. The first is to simply be miserable and bitter for our entire lives. Not a good option. The other is to take matters into our own hands and try to punish them ourselves. Also not a good option. Not only does it usually lead us away from the will of God, but it can get us into all sorts of trouble. Plus, if we’re successful, we often end up feeling more hollow than satisfied.

The last option is to let it go. Just let it go. Forgive them and move on.

It’s easier to say than to do. There seems to be this idea hard-wired into us that when somebody does something wrong, then somebody has to pay. Well guess what? Somebody already did.

In today’s world of the personalised Jesus, we often look at Jesus on the cross and say ‘he died for my sins’. True enough. But he also died for the sins of our enemies. Whenever we think somebody should suffer, it would be worthwhile remember that somebody already did suffer. Jesus Christ did the suffering for those very sins that have hurt us.

That’s not to say that God will not punish them for what they did. Perhaps he will. But we should leave the punishment up to God. And we should give up all thoughts of revenge – even if they’re only in our imagination.

(Image details: Retribution; - tarring and feathering; - or - the patriots revenge, by James Gillray (died 1815), published 1795. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.)


  1. Wow, great post. Will need to catch up on your backlog of posts! :)

  2. Hi Luke. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your comment.



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