wow. Lots to think about here. I agree with most of the above posts which suggest that any action of revenge outside of the law is not acceptable in a civilized society. In fact, one who acts outside the confines of law would himself deserve to be punished. I'm thankful I live in a society which will, to some extent, seek a kind of legal revenge on my behalf when I've been wronged. This is all much easier to say when I haven't been personally affected by anything which stirs up the emotion of revenge; however, I'd like to think I would rely on the system of justice in such an instance.
I think that different responses will be present with such a statement. I am usually very leery of the idea of any statement with a “never” in it because of its severely limiting function. The inclusion of such a word almost makes it a situation where one is begging to find an exception to the rule. However, with this one, I think that the idea of revenge is one that causes people to stoop to another’s level. I am not sure that this is really appropriate as it does take away from an individual’s dignity. Yet, this does not say that I don’t understand the feelings or emotions that rage at a moment of loss. When we look at individuals who have suffered wonton abuse at the hands of another, I feel very challenged to be able to decisively speak from a position that would forbid them from their feelings of desiring revenge. The child who lost their parents at the hands of senseless violence, the woman who was violated in a gruesome manner, the survivor at Auschwitz that watched his/ her parents die at the hands of an SS officer are all instances where I cannot even begin to say what should be done. I can only hope and plead with the powers of cosmic forces or karmic understanding that I am not placed in such a position where the feelings of vengeance are present. While I can only try to articulate my own feelings about it, I am not sure I can speak with such moral clarity about what another person should do in a position where such feelings are present.
There is quite a difference between the concepts of revenge and justice. If I was arguing in defense of the statement that there is never an appropriate time for revenge, then I would include a few of the following points:
1) Revenge is an emotional act, and societies are based on law. Revenge has no place, therefore, in society.
2) Revenge solves nothing. Revenge leads to an endless cycle, each crime or act leading to another act of revenge. This cycle is never appropriate.
3) Revenge is a violation of the Golden Rule, that we should treat others as we expect to be treated. The truly brave act is to forgive.
Many thinkers argue that revenge is essential for a society to function. I should say, though, that this revenge is taken within the context of the law.
For example, many people argue that the death penalty is necessary even if it does not deter crime. The reason for this, they say, is that the people of a society need to know that society as a whole gets revenge for acts taken against it. In other words, if you kill someone in a particularly horrific way, society needs to take revenge on you. If it does not, the people of the society will not feel comfortable -- they will not feel that society values the lives of its members.
If this is true, then there is an innate human need for revenge and some level of revenge is always appropriate.
When I think of the word "revenge" I think about an eye for an eye or a life for a life. In a civilized society with a system of justice in place - I agree with this statement that there is never a time when that kind of revenge is appropriate. Certainly in such a society it is not legally appropriate to exact revenge on someone. Some might even argue that using the justice system to punish wrongdoers is the only form of acceptable "revenge."
And in order to agree with the above statement - I would have to redefine my idea of revenge. For example, in a work environment where someone progresses because of a stolen idea - I think it might be "appropriate" revenge to find a way to expose this person's fraud - but even that doesn't seem to fully fit the connotation associated with the word revenge, unless in exposing the person, the methods used lack as much integrity as the original reason for seeking the revenge. There again though, to me, this is not appropriate.
To the full effect of its negative connotation, revenge is never appropriate.
In a modern civilized society which is governed by a fair legal system revenge would be inappropriate. Mahatma Gandhi once famously remarked,
an eye for an eye would result in the whole world becoming blind.
Given a highly competitive world and man's innate jealousy and greed crime becomes rampant. Modern society has put in place many checks and balances to solve this social problem. It is only natural that when one is hurt to seek revenge but we must check ourselves and take recourse to spiritual or religious help to overcome our thoughts of revenge.
All religions preach and practise universal love. "Love your enemies" is the teaching of all religions. It is this commandment which renders revenge inappropriate no matter what the reason or the circumstance.
Before we argue whether revenge is ever appropriate, it will be worthwhile to understand the nature of revenge. Frequently people tend to mix up revenge with concepts of justice and punishment as a deterrent. However, revenge by itself is neither of these. Revenge is the result of emotional reaction to the feeling of being wronged. It is not directed at either establishing rule of justice or create a deterrence. A revenge may have the effect of securing justice and creating deterrence. But these are not the essential ingredients of a revengeful action. The essential ingredients of revenge is the feeling of anger. And though anger may sometimes trigger right action, anger is usually bad.
Excessive anger like any other negative emotion like envy and fear clouds the judgment of a person and hampers his or her effectiveness. For example, a person overcome by the emotion of revenge may act irrationally and harm itself.
In addition, revenge is not based on cool considerations of justice and reasonableness. This means that a person may feel be offended and take revenge where there is no justification for the same. Or the revengeful action may far exceed the severity of original wrong doing. This unjustified and excessive revenge can start an escalating chain of revenge and counter revenge.
Finally just as mercy blesses both the receiver and giver of mercy. anger inherent in the revenge hurts the person revenged against as well as the one taking the revenge.