Revenge and Resilience

Two weeks ago, the long summer television drought got the better of me. I couldn’t wait a minute longer for the fall shows to premiere, so I logged on to and started watching the first show it recommended for me, Revenge. Revenge is a show about a young woman who arrives at a swanky Hamptons beach house to seek out justice (for what, we are about to find out.) I’m only two episodes in, but watching started me thinking about revenge.


We’ve been taught that revenge isn’t good for us. We know that it takes our time and focus away from more positive ventures. The best way I have ever heard it described was by a priest I knew in New York City: he said, “there are two dragons living inside you. One dragon is vengeance, the other is forgiveness. Every day you just have to decide which dragon you will feed, which dragon you will fuel. The dragon you starve will eventually die. Not right away, of course. But if you don’t feed it, it will die. So choose to feed vengeance, or forgiveness will die.” When we spend our energy on revenge, we are feeding the dragon and giving him strength, and we are feeding ourselves with negative energy.


But there’s another reason to choose to let revenge die its death. Revenge requires action. It requires present tense participation to stay alive. Most of all, it requires a nurturing of thought. Revenge and moving on can never exist in the same plane, because revenge insists that you constantly prune and nurture the terrible, hurtful past. Revenge requires your participation in an activity that wounds you. To stop being wounded, forget about revenge.


Knowing that revenge hurts us doesn’t mean we are required to forgive and forget, of course. There is a profound difference between seeking revenge and keeping ourselves safe from those who have hurt us before and might hurt us again. Once the immediate anger is cleared out of our vision, maybe we can see whether the object of our anger can ever be trusted again. But whether we choose to forgive and forget, choosing revenge is the choice we make for our own resilience. Let the dragon of vengeance die, and our lives can be lived with more happiness and fewer flames.