Is Revenge on Our Hard Drive?

This weekend Deb and I heard the first part of a series of messages by Ben Redmond entitled, “The Comfort of Vengeance.”

I left thinking there is something wired into the hard drive of every human which draws us to vengeance.  Ben reminded us of revenge-based-movies like Taken, Law Abiding Citizen, and Edge of Darkness.  Add to that the ultimate Veng-O-Meter Steven Segal and many of the video games and we get vivid pictures of justice turned personal.  It’s aggressive and intense.  Just as intense is the passive-aggressive approach to taking revenge: sarcasm (scud missiles meant to penetrate deep), gossip, distance, and a host of other means used to inflict collateral damage under the surface.

Vengeance can bring out the worst in humanity and is reflected in the ugliness, mean-spiritedness, and down-right evilness of our attitude and behavior.  Revenge may seem sweet but the after-taste is more bitter than one can imagine.

It makes sense when the itinerate rabbi named Jesus was asked how to pray he answered, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive the transgressions of others.”  He knew how prone we are to see forgiveness as spy-ware which could yield untold damage to our hard drive meant for revenge.  We don’t want any distraction when we are hell-bent on pay back.  It’s like, “Talk to me later, I’m on a mission and I won’t stop until I get what I want.”  That’s it, isn’t it?  Revenge is what I want.  I want to be the one to dispense what I believe is proper justice given whatever circumstance I encounter and doweled out at the level I see commensurate with the wrong:

  • To the guy who cuts me off in traffic I want to ram him, but I’ll settle for giving him the finger.
  • To the person who I think is gunning for me at work I want to let him know what pay back feels like, but I’ll settle for sarcastic bursts in front of her friends.
  • To the person who decides to trash me I want to unload the dump truck of crap on him, but I’ll settle for letting toxic venom leak from me whenever his name comes up.

We may be guided by some civility but vengeance is still brutal.  Exact it and be done!

But…then I remember the divine wisdom burned into me since my youth, “Don’t take revenge!” coupled with “Forgive us as…” and I stop in my self-indignant tracks.  I’m faced with penetrating questions like: What type of person do you really want to be?  How do you want people to treat you when you screw up?  What kind of spirit do you want to have in your relationships?

I regularly need to reboot my hard drive of vengeance: installing truth, restarting, and let my spirit be filled with something other than my warped idea of justice.  When I do this, the right type of response becomes evident: I am more patient, I let go of wrongs quicker, I empathize, I create healthy boundaries, I even forgive – because I realize that forgiveness is about my spirit and receiving divine forgiveness.   I’m grateful for this transformation, as slow as it may be.

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7 Responses to Is Revenge on Our Hard Drive?

  1. ben redmond says:

    Great thoughts Mark! Nice to meet you and Deb this weekend.

  2. Mark: I thought you had some really good insights in this article. I particularly liked what you said about rebooting your hard drive. I think that is a great analogy and really drives home the point that sometimes we need to remind ourselves of who we are and our true essence. Very interesting post.

  3. Mark says:

    @Ben – Thanks! Looking forward to more of The Comfort of Vengeance.

  4. Mark says:

    @ Sibyl – Thanks for checking in and your feedback. How true it is that life and our expectations of situations distract us from who we are. The image of the hard drive is so apropos for me because it reflects how much revenge can “take over” and seep into our attitude and behavior if we let it.

  5. Jeff Long says:

    Mark:

    For as long as I’ve known you,, you’ve had a unique ability to ride that razor’s edge of secularism and the other “ism” in which we we both trained (although you much more than I). This talent is what makes your commentary applealing to both sides of the philospical fence, as it were.

    The sainted German monk from whom we both learned showed us that our behavior is not what we do, but who we are. Our hard drives are wired for the hunger of vengeance on which you have opined. If we see ourselves as totally depraved and total depravity, we can understand from where our behavior comes. Heck, we are even told that even our good works are are stained by this inborn depravity.

    For those on the secular side, any suggestion that there is no good in us would be seen as the comments of a religious crackpot. After all, we help others, we feed the hungry, et al. Nevertheless, if there was really any good in us, the rabbi about whom you wrote wouldn’t have been sacrificed, would he? To coin a phrase, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant.” (… too cryptic?)

  6. Mark says:

    I was riding the exercise bike this morning and watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine and this interchange intrigued me given this topic:

    William Stryker: So what’s your plan, Captain? You can’t beat him, Logan, you know you can’t!
    Logan: I’m gonna go find him and kill him.
    William Stryker: I can give you the tools to defeat him. And we can still save the others.
    Logan: You mean save yourself, right?
    William Stryker: I promise you two things. You will suffer more pain than any other man can endure, but you’ll have your revenge.
    Logan: I come with you, I’m coming for blood. No law. No code of conduct. You point me in the right direction, you get the hell out of my way.

  7. Mark says:

    @Jeff – Thanks for the compliment – I think – about “riding the razor’s edge.” It could be that I don’t see this so much as a razor’s edge. I am grateful for the foundation of my training and believe that the Reformation birthed by the German monk (which created a “schism”) is not a past tense, one-time-action, but an on-going work which is alive, organic, generational, and certainly grounded in the Spirit.

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