Revenge will not be the thing that makes you feel better (okay, maybe for a moment). In short, it impedes our progress to act out vengefully. It impedes our progress to retaliate against someone by smearing his or her good name to all they know. It impedes our progress to stay focused on them and the dirty, rotten things we want to do to them in our anger. It’s not okay and it’s not your place to make sure something terrible happens to this person or to be the instrument to make it happen. It’s simply NOT OKAY.
When I was married and my husband was cheating on me, I used to do things to his clothes and the dishes he cooked. Nothing terrible but it was a feeling of control even though I had none. He would only buy clothes when he was cheating so I used to loosen the threads in them so that they would “pop” when he was at work or out on a date. It was the act of a desperate person and took my mind off what he was really doing. I would salt his food that he would be bringing to a picnic with his girlfriend so that it was inedible. He was notorious for oversalting so he thought he had done it. Again, the desperate act of a desperate person.
Also, I spent the first few months after my separation absolutely horrified that my husband took up with someone else and was dragging my kids over to see her. I had revenge fantasies so vile I’ve never shared them with anyone. I did tell people that I was almost consumed with revenge fantasies and people told me it was okay to think or feel anything but not okay to act out and by talking about it, it would dissipate.
Several months later I was still angry as all get out and speaking about it to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) a man in one of my groups knew a guy who knew a guy…and the guy specialized in revenge. If you know what I mean. On many scales…large and small.
And did I want him to put his sleazy friend in touch with me. I can’t say that I immediately said no. I said I would think about it. But I eventually (a few weeks later) said no. But only after thinking about how great that would be.
And then it hit me, and hit me hard, that I was completely ON THE WRONG ROAD. It hit me that I could have ruined my life. Gone to jail or worse…who knows what? Leaving my kids without a mother and he would STILL be with the girlfriend and I’d be completely screwed. How close I came snapped me like a twig and I ran back to reality and just became very very very determined to rise above all the muck and mire I had obviously been in on some level. Maybe I had to walk that close to the edge to realize it was just LUNACY, but I walked there and then I got my act together and let me tell you, doing well IS the best revenge. My life today is INCREDIBLE and I’m happier beyond my wildest dreams, not sitting in a jail cell somewhere. Even my small scale, I can do it, revenge fantasies struck me as wrong. Just not okay.
It isn’t that revenge is wrong because it hurts someone else. It is wrong for that reason, but that’s not the primary wrong. The primary wrong is to the person so consumed with anger and rage and feelings of injustice that they want to lash out.
You lose your soul.
You lose your grace and your dignity.
You lose your ability to concentrate on what you need to do for you.
And you lose your control over your own life. Someone else is dictating what you will do. And no matter how much revenge you ever manage to wreck, they have you in their crosshairs. They control the strings and you dance like a puppet…until you’ve ruined your life and your future.
Don’t go there. KEEP CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.
The other thing that I find disturbing is that you are with Mr. or Ms. X who cheats on you or gets a new bf/gf immediately. You go to new bf/gf’s car and key it or you do something equally obnoxious to them and not your ex. WHY?? This person doesn’t owe a shred of loyalty to you. This person scooped up your ex who allowed him or herself to be scooped up. The ex is the one you should be angry with. Don’t displace your anger and go after someone who owes you nothing. Take the focus off the new boyfriend/girlfriend thief and put it back on you.
Stories I’ve read about revenge have been disturbing and a few columnists in the NY Daily News seem to find it disturbing as well. AND there’s actually a woman who I think is a nut named Christine Gallagher who is advising women to get revenge and saying it’s therapy and “karma in this lifetime.” (I will repost my Karma article…much different than hers)
Their piece is called “The Toxic Revengers”:
BY NICOLE LYN PESCE AND LEAH CHERNIKOFF
Kristina Caban, 23, was understandably ticked off when Samir Sara didn’t call her after they had sex. But the hotheaded School of Visual Arts student took her vengeance too far, literally scarring her ex for life.
Caban was sentenced to five years behind bars last Friday for masterminding an assault in which she lured Sara to the Chelsea Inn and had accomplices shock him with a Taser before branding the letter “R” on his torso with a scalding piece of metal.
This twisted sister has plenty of women scorned to keep her company. Last month, New Jersey police reported a Trenton teen torched her ex’s house after hearing he took another girl to the prom. Shanta Dargbeh, 19, was locked up on $250,000 bail and hit with 10 felony charges, including aggravated arson, after leaving the family of 10 homeless.
And who could forget the Williamsburg “Herpes Avenger”? The unlucky lady contracted the STD after an unprotected one-night stand, and effectively killed the offender’s sex life in a smear campaign, after plastering the hip nabe with posters of his photo reading “I have herpes!”
The city is rife with everyday women turned vengeful vigilantes. “I freely admit that I peed on my freshman-year boyfriend’s porch after he dumped me,” says Jessica Gross, 26, associate editor of women’s gossip and entertainment blog Jezebel.com. “Women want their feelings to be heard, and a lot of guys will just dismiss them without giving them a closure conversation or letting them express their displeasure. So these women figure the only way to get a dude’s attention is to do something outlandish.”
Revenge was sweet for Lakisha Atkinson, 31, a probation officer from Newark. She baked one ex an Ex-Lax cake after she found he’d been two-timing her for more than a year. “He ate the whole thing. He thought it was delicious,” she crows, adding that he was sick for three days. “I’m sure he’ll never forget it! And that was my goal.”
“We look at revenge as sort of therapy that you can do at home,” explains Christine Gallagher, founder of RevengeLady.com. ” You’re giving somebody their karma in this lifetime.”
Gallagher personally tormented one former flame by unscrewing the door panel of his prized Audi GT and putting a marble inside. The car rattled for weeks. “It drove him berserk,” she says. “He kept taking it in, and nobody could find what the problem was. Finally it was torn apart, and I’d left a little note in there saying, ‘Oh you finally found it, f-er!’”
Yet even the Revenge Lady thinks there’s a fine line between “an eye for an eye” and all-out “bunny boiler,” such as Kate Dehnel, 22, from Brooklyn, who was dumped via text message and freaked out when she saw her ex, now engaged, in a bar. “I threw a full beer bottle at him and hit him in the head to get his attention,” she says. “He tried to walk away then, so I threw another beer bottle at him and my vodka tonic before my friends got me to stop.”
Gallagher references her “Rules of Revenge” in deciding how to pay it backward. “The punishment must fit the crime,” she says. You don’t go nuclear over something trivial, and obviously you don’t do anything illegal or that could hurt someone. “That’s crazy, because you’ll just cause trouble for yourself.”
Some contend that revenge is never okay, no matter how heinous the crime may seem. “It’s never justified!” exclaims psychologist Cooper Lawrence. “It feels good in the moment, but when you have a chance to really think about it in the long run, not only do you always regret it and realize what a stupid move it was, but now you become the psycho ex-girlfriend.”
Lawrence recommends taking a step back and confiding in your friends before doing something drastic. “You have to really think about how this is going to look to other people in a year from now,” she says. “Do I want this to be my legacy?”
I’m sure you can guess that I absolutely agree with Cooper Lawrence and think that Gallagher’s advice is dangerous and stupid.
The idea of bashing someone’s car because they cheated (Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood) or branding someone or even putting a marble in a car are just complete wastes of time that are better spent using the energy to HEAL.
In my opinion, Ms. Revenge Lady is a nut spreading DANGEROUS DANGEROUS messages and could possibly be culpable if something bad really happens.
People who are angry enough to seek revenge are usually too angry to figure out how much or how little. People who ARE capable of cold and calculated “just enough” revenge may be a lot pathological and maybe a bit sociopathic.
Most of my readers and students are not in revenge mode. And I’m glad to report that. But I read this article and it really bothered me.
Revenge is not worth ANYTHING. It isn’t worth your time, your energy and your focus.
Your time and energy and focus belongs on YOU and YOUR healing.
Living well IS the best revenge.
Copyright Susan J. Elliott 2010 All Rights Reserved