I’m excited for season three of the television show, Revenge. If you have ever felt a secret desire to take revenge on someone for whatever reason, this show is a great way to live that out without actually acting on it yourself. It’s a quality show in every way. I’m pretty hooked on it, and have learned quite a bit about vengeance.
I’m convinced the writers have read a lot of Shakespeare, who is master storyteller about vengeance. Shakespeare’s character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice asks, “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”
The desire for revenge when someone has wronged us is fundamentally natural in human nature. Acting on that desire is a temptation. Many people do act on that desire at various levels. On the show Revenge, there is some serious acting out of that desire. What’s great is that the writers show us the true consequences of acting on revenge; namely, no peace and no good coming from it.
There might be some twisted pleasure in taking revenge, but there is no peace or happiness. Yet many people do try to self-serve their desire for justice for the wrongs done to them. Many times, these actions only cause more problems. It’s a risky business to take vengeance.
So what is it that drives someone to take revenge on another? And what does this have to do with romantic relationships? Well, I think it’s pretty obvious if you think about it. Just consider the things of rejection like someone breaking up with you without explanation, or canceling your date because they had something “better” to do. It’s amazing how hurt we can get, and the feelings of injustice that can build.
But to become a person capable of actually taking vengeance on someone, you first have to become a person with expectations that must be met. Having expectations is one thing. Not being happy unless those expectations are met is quite another.
Pope Benedict XVI, commenting on the Gospel of St. John, said that a lack of sincerity in life is “the mark of the devil” as witnessed in the decision of Judas Iscariot to continue following Jesus Christ even after he had ceased to believe in him. Unlike the disciples who stopped believing and left the Lord after hearing about the Eucharist, Judas stayed after he stopped believing, and continued an insincere relationship for no other reason than a secret desire for vengeance. Why? Because Judas had disappointed expectations of Jesus being a different kind of Messiah and decided to act on his disappointment.
I wonder if there isn’t similar insincerity happening in dating relationships? Many “I love you’s” are spoken, while many more acts against love are committed. Aside from the larger and obvious things, consider littler, less obvious things we do to the person we’re dating, like making them feel like they’re not important, not being attentive to their needs, comments that make them feel bad about themselves, etc.
Above all, consider expectations. One of the most counter-productive things against love is to have expectations that are difficult or impossible to meet. And worse, what we become in the face of someone failing to meet those expectations. An insincere person will turn against the person they’re dating in light of disappointed expectations.
It’s extremely hard not to be disappointed with people. We have so many expectations, especially with those we want to share love with. They are not to fail us (isn’t that what love is supposed to be?). But yet, they do fail us. It is then that you have to find a way to believe in that person and believe in love, and keep renewing that belief. That is the way of the disciples, and it’s the way to understanding the other and what has happened.
Vengeance is a dangerous game. The TV show Revenge is frustrating because you’re constantly wondering why these people feel they have to even the score, rather than let it go. Everyone is unhappy, whether the victim of vengeance, or the perpetrator of it.
Forgiveness and trustful surrender to God, on the other hand, is a far better investment of time and energy, producing dividends of peace and happiness. We hand things over to God, the rightful authority to handle matters, while we take up the daunting task of loving our enemy and doing good to those who persecute us, as Jesus taught.
This is a very disappointing reality to those who need justice and expect God to teach a lesson to those terrible people who hurt them and deserve it.
But what if God isn’t as ready for revenge as you are? Perhaps you’re too impatient about it. Perhaps God has a plan He wants to accomplish through this that you aren’t privy to. Perhaps God is allowing it to teach you the lesson, not that terrible person.
So now you decide you can’t wait on God and it’s time to take matters into your own hands. You’re disappointed in God. You stopped believing He is the rightful authority to handle the matter. Or worse, you decide you’re God’s instrument in imposing justice on the wicked.
It’s a slippery slope. And we easily deceive ourselves. Revenge looks good, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the many opportunities and ways to inflict revenge. It is so easy to justify our actions as not being vengeance at all, but rather helpful and charitable actions which are necessary.
The path to finding the person you will share a lifetime of love and friendship with is rooted in personal peace and sincerity of being, which is centered on belief and trust in God. The path to love is vengeance-free and centered on forgiveness.
The insincere person has unrealistic expectations of love in relationships with others. They want the saintly pursuits, but don’t want to accept that sanctity is accomplished by sinners on a journey. Marital love is accomplished by sharing a mutual respect for each other as a sinner pursuing sanctity, not an expectation of being a saint already.
Too often, people retaliate because of the expectation of wanting a saint. Why not try expecting there to be disappointments along the way? Remember, you’re no saint either. You’re both dating a sinner.
If you just can’t get past the disappointments of the person you’re dating, then what is your next move in the name of sincerity? Will you stay and love, or will you be honest and end the relationship? If you stay, you absolutely must communicate disappointments and work at it together as a team. But it might be that you need to be honest and end the relationship instead of staying together while resentments and desire for vengeance grows and is acted on.
Does that person deserve to be taught a lesson? Maybe. But not by you. Walk away without animosity and resentment, and certainly without any desire for that person to suffer. Your life is to be one of mercy, through both forgiving and consideration of the weakness of others. The quicker you forgive, the easier it is for you to heal and be fully open to love and available to the next person. And the more you live mercy, the closer you are to God.