Saturday, February 6, 2010


Twice over the past week, the subject of revenge has come up in conversations.  One conversation was at the Roller Derby, instigated by a discussion of the book The Shack.  I have never, nor probably will I ever, read this book.  Life is a sad and tragic enough thing without me spending my reading time on something that is sad and tragic (I feel the same way about movies, which is why I will never see the movie "Precious").  There is plenty of spirtual discussion this book can engender, but the topic that we happened to address was revenge.  It started with the statement "The desire to seek revenge is human nature" and then proceeded on from there, debating whether or not this was true.  Of course, then we were interrupted by the pummeling I mentioned previously (ironically enough) and the conversation was never brought up again.

Later, I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday, I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about punishment for criminals.  Specifically, we were talking about sexual offenders, and whether or not the system treats them too harshly.  This touched on the revenge subject, specifically in that he felt the punitive system was too harsh towards some sexual offenders, seeking more revenge than justice on a case by case level. 

Those were the two incidents this week, and I figured I would record my opinions in respect to both of them, and in respect to revenge itself.  I do agree with the statement that the desire for revenge is human nature.  When someone wrongs us, it is only natural to wish to make them pay in some form or fashion.  You can see this from observing small children.  One child takes another's toy, and the child taken from hits in response or grabs the toy back.  I think this response is innate.

Some might argue that this is actually proof of a sense of justice.  I adamantly disagree.  Children have to be taught the meaning of the word "just" and must be taught to take issues to a person of authority who can sort out, going back to the pervious example, just what qualifies as a "just" response for taking a toy.  Unfortunately, this teaching process oftentimes goes horribly wrong.  Many of my students, for example, think that something is "not fair Ms." if it goes against what they, as individuals want.  They also see kicking someone's ass as "just" if that person "disrespected" them.  (And don't get me started on their definition and perception of the word "respect".)  It is clear (at least to me) that revenge is the instinctual reaction, while seeking justice is the learned behavior.

In regards to the sex offenders discussion, I did agree with my collegue that certain cases are potentially punished too harshly.  For example, the 18 year old who has sex with his/her 15 year old significant other and is found guilty of statutory rape.  At that point, if both parties were willing, I don't think one should be punished when the other is not.  After all, at that age range, you could be talking about a senior in high school and a sophomore. (Side note:  I do NOT think that ANY high schooler is ready for sex, regardless of how mature they seem.  They still have so much to learn about life and themselves.  That said, many of them ARE going to have sex anyway.)  However, I do think that a 20 year old dating any age below 18 is creepy (yes, I think even 17 is creepy, even though it is the age of consent most places).  My coworker tried to argue the "mental age" of a person should be taken into account--to which I say bullshit.  If you are 21 and have the mental age of a 16 year old, SO WHAT?  You are still 21, and have no business being in a relationship with a teenager that young.  Case in point, I'm sure some of the twisted teachers who are having sexual relationships with their students could be termed "of young mental age" but that still does NOT excuse what they are doing.  The mental age argument is way too subjective, and would also become an easily abused excuse.

In regards to rapists, I say lock them up and throw away the key.  As for child abusers, locking them up isn't nearly what they deserve, but since we are a "civilized" country, we would never condone a punishment that fits the crime in this instance.  My coworker tried to argue that many of these offenders can be rehabilitated.  Again, I cry bullshit.  Yes, there is a certain percentage of these kinds of predators that can be rehabilitated, but it is NOT the majority, and even the rehabilitated need to be held accountable for their actions.  My coworker tried to argue that, in some cases, they shouldn't be as accountable due to family situations, cultural influences, etc.  My response is that if we ever start using THAT double-edged sword as a measuring stick, noone would ever be held accountable for anything.  He still feels that our system is too focused on seeking revenge against sex offenders.  I, personally, don't have a problem with that.  Do I feel sorry for the few--again, the FEW--who are judged too harshly?  Sure.  But I am not willing to let that sympathy ease the way for the true predators.

So, back to revenge.  I think it is a natural human inclination, and that, when tempered by learned justice, it is not altogether a bad thing.  That said, there are times when it is wrong to pursue revenge against someone who has personally wronged you.  It is at that point, at least for me, that my faith comes in.  I believe God will hold everyone accountable for the wrongs they have done to others (myself included, of course), for he is a just God.  I just try to have faith that--as corny as it sounds--what goes around comes around, and that they will be held accountable for their actions in one way or another.  Maybe by their actions bringing misfortune on themselves in this life(which will hopefully instruct them on how NOT to treat the people around them).  Maybe it won't happen til the next life.  I do believe that if you have repented, you will be forgiven, but I do not think that forgiveness absolves us of accountability.  We will have to answer for the wrongs we have done to the one that has never done any wrong.  And I can't imagine a better punishment than standing before God and having to own up to the hurts you have caused others, without excuses, lies, or misdirections to shield you.

1 comment:

  1. You sound like your Dee Dee! (Which is a very good thing!)


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