Is revenge what we really want?

Two things are motivating me to write this article now.

One is that our government is considering a retaliatory cyber breach or attack on Russia as payback for their breaking in to our cyber system. Unfortunately, I can see this escalating to the point where peoples’ secure bank information, airline scheduling, military plans, medical information, stock tradings, iCloud info, etc., become compromised. We’re told that it must be done to show our display of power. This is scary to me.

The second is that Thursday is the global Conflict Resolution Day. There is a huge connection, which I intend to suggest.

Let’s define revenge. I’m using Wikipedia’s extended definition: “Revenge is a form of primitive justice usually assumed to be enacted in the absence of the norms of formal law … Often revenge is define as being a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived.” So people are vengeful sometimes when they are completely wrong in what happened. People often use revenge when they don’t believe that the law will give them the justice that they want.

Social psychologist Ian Mckee states that the desire for the sustenance of power motivates vengeful behavior as a means of impression management: “People who are more vengeful tend to be those who are motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status. They don’t want to lose face.”

So it appears that to many revenge is connected with their ego need to be in control of what they want. I ask you to think about how you feel when you think of the legendary Hatfield and McCoy revenging feud compared to the forgiveness displayed by the family members of the historic Charleston, SC, Emanuel AME church when Dylann Roof entered their prayer service and killed nine people.

Even the Hatfields and McCoys stopped avenging the deaths, as their numbers got smaller, and nothing was really gained. As soon as one side killed another, they knew they were marked targets. The conflict continued. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The AME church families earned nearly everyone’s respect. The conflict stopped with their forgiveness. They didn’t go after Roof’s family or friends. Nadine Collier said to Roof, “I forgive you. You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”

Some might consider this another form of power. It takes a tremendous spiritual power to have the faith that true justice will be served. So many faiths teach that we reap what we sow. In the book “Love the Person You’re With: Life-changing insights from the most compelling near-death experiences ever recorded,” by David Sunfellow documents people’s life reviews. When we die we experience everything we put into the world. Dylann will feel what his victims felt, just as all offenders feel the pain, whether emotional, psychological or physical that they directly caused to others. The book also states that our Creator has compassion, and His love heals us. Higher law trumps man-made law or corrupt judges. Collier trusted that the Higher Law would take care of things, but also wanted Roof to know how she felt. That’s common, and sometimes the court systems don’t allow for it.

But in the meantime, people can ask for a mediation to share their sides of the story with the other person. Most states now include mediation as part of the court process. But why wait for the issue to get to the court which takes lots of time and money? Mediation is available to anyone on this island now.

Or if you don’t anyone in your business, find the story behind your anger and see if you can get your needs met without resorting to violence. You might ask yourself these questions I’ve modified from Rev. Paul Solomon’s Emotions Management process. You may do it with a trusted friend, or pray before you begin for divine help. Write your thoughts down.

1. Accept that you are feeling emotional. It’s OK. Your emotions are your teachers, and show you when your needs aren’t being met.

2. Name it or them. Be honest. Don’t sugar-coat it.

3. Understand that the emotion belongs to you. It’s a part of your story. Others have their own stories and may respond differently to the same event. At some level you chose this emotion and weren’t a victim. We can’t know another’s story, but it is important to know our own.

4. Review the catalyst for what triggered this emotion. It probably has to do with some form of judgment of you, including your own. Example: You see that your sweetie had a phone conversation with someone you think s/he might be interested in. You may be right or wrong, but the emotion is saying, “I’m not secure in my relationship. That makes me sad and angry.” You’ve judged yourself, your sweetie and the other person.

5. Emotions come from our beliefs. Find what yours are about this situation. In this case, it’s probably that you believe that people should trust each other in relationships. If it’s that your sweetie can only call you, and not talk to others, you may need some counseling support. Not many folks only want to talk to one person.

6. The big question is: What do you want? Do you want to trust your sweetie, or do you maybe want to be so sure of your relationship that you don’t have to check up on it? Are you sure that your sweetie wants the same kind of relationship that you do? If your sweetie is fooling around, do you really want to be in that relationship? There can be more than one thing that you want. List them all.

7. Now, hopefully you are calm and logical enough to think about what action you can take that will most likely get you what you want. Would having a temper tantrum draw him or her closer to you? Would a vengeful action, like calling up another person just to be the same do it? Or would you have more luck being lovable? Love is irresistible, if you are really loving a person, and not manipulating them in some way.

8. Act on your choice. Take a positive action toward getting what you want.

Two things that work well in relationships : sincere apologies and forgiveness.

Now to recap to the beginning. Paul Solomon said that the leaders of a government are a reflection of the peoples’ thoughts. If the majority of people began working toward win-win solutions, they will be supporting people who think that way, and the world might completely lose the need for power struggles that affect so many innocents. Happy Conflict Resolution Day!


Annaleah Atkinson is a volunteer with Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i, a support group for teens and their families. Email your questions or concerns to


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