When, a short time ago, I wrote my brief essay on ’Only Forgiving Makes you Free’, I related how, if possible, we should always forgive, even if we have been hurt both inside and outside. In fact, I told you that, in our own interest, we should learn and practice said forgiveness. Yet I was quite aware that the opposing end of ’forgiveness’, namely ’revenge’ must exude enormous attraction. How else would it be possible that is has such a strong impact on human society?
However, I did not have a to-the-point formulation for the phenomenon!
Hence, it surprised me so much the more when, a few days ago, I found exactly the term I had been looking for. It was in the latest novel by Siri Hustvedts “The Glittering World“.
Siri Hustvedt lets her protagonist Harry say:
Revenge ideas will always have their origin in agonizing helplessness. “I am suffering” turns into “you must suffer”! And do not let us mince words: revenge will make you strong! It gives you focus and fire, and it suppresses misery, because it transfers the emotions to the outside. In misery, we dissolve. In revenge, we concentrate all our energy and turn it into one single weapon directed at one individual goal. No matter how destructive said weapon will be in the end, it serves a useful purpose for some time!
As I see it, Siri Hustvedt got it exactly right with this statement of hers about what is so attractive about revenge, which pulls at us like a suction. But, naturally, she also knows how destructive revenge will always be in the end. And unfortunately, the current news from the Arabian World tell us on a daily basis that cultures based on revenge and retaliation can never find peace .…
(Translated by EG)