What good is revenge?

A cursory look at literature, popular culture, historical events, and current trends in thought might give the impression that vengeance is not only acceptable but perhaps an inevitable response to injustice. Yet public attitudes toward revenge are mixed. Some justify revenge as morally correct in the face of injustice, but an automatic or pervasive reaction of revenge only perpetuates injustice. And, as you’ll see in this week’s selection of poetry and articles from our archives, forgiveness, love, and compassion are appropriate and effective responses to stopping cycles of hatred and injustice. For instance, the Bible counsels: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.… as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 18, 21, New International Version). 

The God that is all-loving redeems humanity from its worst impulses.

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One article illustrates how the power of divine Love breaks cycles of revenge and yet doesn’t leave us defenseless. Another states, “Most of us would agree that strong, swift, and effective defense is completely acceptable, while the mental abyss of revenge isn’t—no one wins. No wonder Mary Baker Eddy was moved to say, ‘Revenge is inadmissible’ (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 22).” As people around the globe reflect on the recent killings in Sri Lanka and the earlier attacks in New Zealand, we see this as a call to look deeper. Fears arising about a continued cycle of revenge invite us to see divine Love in action. While revenge may intend to make up for past wrongs and prevent future ones, the result is typically an increase in violence, conflict, and harm. Unless the materialism at the heart of the conflict is rooted out through spiritual growth and love, nothing is solved. 

The God that is all-loving redeems humanity from its worst impulses and appetites. Every time we let love instead of hate motivate us, offer kindness when someone is in need, turn toward our brothers and sisters who are different from us rather than away, we are breaking down the mental barriers that keep thought stuck in entrenched positions of division and opposition. And this divine power of Love transforms our thinking and therefore the world.

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