Revenge is defined in numerous glossaries as vengeance inflicted with the intention to harm, to impose pain and anguish. It is termed as a way to ‘get even with an aggressor in an attempt to hurt him/her. Revenge is equated to taking another person’s life, hence, cannot be justified. Through revenge, nations go against each other, as leaders search for evil ways to retaliate the wrongdoings. However, revenge can be perceived as way to create order by inflicting penalty on the offender. Revenge is unjustifiable because when an individual begins to think intelligently about the consequences of revenge, the need for vengeance becomes irrational and the feeling of being petty is superseded by objectivity.
Is Revenge Justifiable?
Revenge is an action that tends to injure an individual as a response to a damage done to another individual. Revenge is a form of aggression, destined to hurt, and incorporates emotional and behavioral intensity that seem to upset the transgressor (Strelan, P, Weick, M. & Vasiljevic, M. 2014, 521). One of the deadliest cases of revenge involves blood feuds. According to Stillwell, Baumeister, and Del Priore (2008, 254), blood feuds happen when a member of a given group is offended by a member of another group or groups, and such precipitating event amount to provocation that never ends. A series of provocations lead to death of members of both groups, unless a truce is finally arranged.
Revenge cannot be justifiable, given that its intentions are subjective and lacks rationality. According to Nozick, revenge is quite different from retribution, as revenge is directed to personal harm without confirmation of the wrong while retribution is performed as a reaction to an actual ‘wrong’ (Kowalski, D. 2008, 179). Revenge has no measure, since it is personal, and depends on individual’s feelings. This makes it impossible to pursue its rationality, as Kant had suggested when referring to rational pursuit of vengeance. Kant’s categorical imperative proposed that individuals should act in a manner that can be perceived as a universal law rather than acting on personal drives (Babin, B. & Harris, E. 2012, 309). In his deontological perspective, Kant emphasized on how individuals accomplished their goals as opposed to what they have achieved.
Although revenge makes an individual feel contented and relieved, it is evil. It is unethical, unreligious, and indefensible. In a society where no judges or law exist, punishment is usually administered through revenge (Hegel, G. & Dyde, S. 2005, 40). This is a defective way of punishment, which is driven by subjective will without adequate content. Revenge can result from the distortion of human perfectibility where memories of poor treatment drive individuals to revenge (Zimbardo, P. 2008, 230). When vengeful individuals come into terms with what they have already done, the feelings of guilt overwhelm them, and they may end up punishing themselves to evade the remorse. Revenge is meant to gratify an individual or a group of people. Such acts of revenge are unjustifiable neither morally or prudentially (Card, C. 2005, 85). The desire to become cruel is unethical while trying to satisfy individual’s self-interests is equally imprudent.
Most countries base their laws on religious beliefs, and most religions are against acts of vengeance. In Christian view, the Bible has warned on revenge in Roman 12:19, where people are advised to avoid revenge and let God do the vengeance. According to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan is perceived as a revengeful antihero who seeks to retaliate against God who threw him out of Heaven; hence, revenge serves to attain personal goals (Westfahi, G. 2005, 664). Muslims are advised to refrain from revenge and to seek peace through avoiding evil deeds. In Buddha, revenge is sinful and individuals are advised to avoid resentments by forgiving their oppressors.
In legal perspective, revenge is unlawful and unwarranted. It is usually used by powerful individuals to exploit the weak, who cannot defend against perceived threats. Chronically powerless people are more likely to engage in revenge than powerful people are because powerless people are vulnerable to transgression and ego-threats from their offenders (Strelan, P, Weick, M. & Vasiljevic, M. 2014, 523). In some cases, revenge can be administered to restore justice, in addition to reinstating the balance, which was interrupted by the original offense (Stillwell, A., Baumeister, R., & Del Priore, R., 2008, 254). The definitive goal of the law is to ensure justice for all. States usually establish laws to safeguard their citizens from physical and mental harm.
In ancient times, leaders took the initiative to prevent wrong by punishing the wrong doers, which motivated them to seek revenge. However, revenge was a step towards seeking justice, according to the ‘code.’ The Hammurabi Code, which was established by Hammurabi, the king of Babylon about 4,000 years ago, provided for personal injury law, where individuals were allowed to take revenge for the wrongs done to them (Adamson, J. 2012, 5). According to Adamson, revenge was paying “an eye for an eye,” which resulted to capital punishment that is applicable to some countries today. To some people, revenge offers a sense of satisfaction, as perpetrators feel the pain that they inflict to their subjects.
Revenge affects individual’s personality, as individuals do not feel contented until they inflict harm to their opponents. According to Kekes (1993, 143), there are several instances where individual elicit evil conduct through single-mindedly focus on injuring others, revenge, and undertaking other forms of malevolence. Desires for revenge may result to falsification of objects, as individuals try to make things function according to their own feelings. The thirst for revenge makes individuals search for someone to blame for their woes. Kaufman (2013, 96) termed revenge as excessive and unsystematic in offering justice. It leads to bias and unjust results, making society more evil and uncooperative.
Consequences of Revenge
In deontological perspective, some actions are wrong even when their consequences are good. Deontologists insist on how individuals accomplish their goals, rather than what they have achieved. Revenge may come with significant risks to those who indulge in it. For instance, killing for self-defense can be termed as revenge, and in most cases, it is justifiable. However, the explanation for self-defense is quite complicated, thus, making less justifiable in certain instances. For instance, when many American soldiers died during Iraqi insurgence, some soldiers were sent for revenge (Zimbardo, P. 2008, 367). In legal terms, any form of killing is illegal and punishable through law.
If revenge is the only way that individuals can utilize to respond to evils of justice, then they have connived with the power from the darkness to make the world the worst place to live. Going by Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” (Zahnd, B. & Volf, M. 2010, 19). Revenge in ‘tit for tat’ is unethical way of dealing with wrong in society and not considering other people’s interests. By engaging in revenge, individuals ignore the power of forgiveness, which is the moral antithesis of revenge. Forgiveness assists in relieving anger, resentment, as well as fighting the craving to harm the offenders.
Revenge is a common practice in the workplace where the central component is the organizational conflict. When workers are sabotaged and mistreated, they may result to revenge. Revenge breeds counter-retaliation in the workplace, which consequently generates spirals of conflict that may continue for a long time (Barclay, L., Whiteside, D. & Aquino, K. 2014, 15). Revenge in the workplaces happens on the bases of interpersonal mistreatment, thus, represents a violation of moral norms. It is only in negative reciprocity norms that individuals are permitted to seek revenge in case they are treated inappropriately or unfairly to deter future violations.
Revenge may benefit the third parties, who are not involved directly in the oppression, as it prevents offenders from mishandling others in the future. The third parties are assured of their well-being, when, for instance, their co-workers seek revenge from their seniors, the seniors may opt to change their approach to employee treatment in the future. In addition, revenge may lead to termination of employment for a cruel manager, who had the habit of interfering with the morale of an otherwise purposeful work group (Giacalone, R. & Promislo, M. 2013, 67). In this context, revenge assists in cultivating social interactions, which safeguards workers’ interests in the workplace.
Revenge is unjustifiable and evil, and individuals who indulge in it are perceived to be unintelligent and petty. Initially, revenge was perceived as an appropriate way to seek justice and equity, but lack of rationality and objectivity reduced its effectiveness, leading to more evils. Revenge knows no boundaries or morals. It is usually rooted in blind fury, and can only be imposed by another individual with a personal tie. People who seek revenge are perceived as villain, for their intentions are to get even through inflicting equal pain to their transgressors. Revenge leads to guilt and loss of personality while in the workplace, it creates conflicts that refrain employees from performing to their best. People can avoid evil deeds by refraining from acts of revenge.
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