When a friend let the air out of the tires of a boyfriend’s car in revenge for his latest transgression, I was both impressed and shocked. I’d never done anything like that before–or since, for that matter. Revenge is not something that occurs to me. It seems kind of pointless, but maybe it helps healing. I’m not sure. Recent events have me thinking.
I am glad and relieved Osama bin Laden no longer walks the earth. He didn’t deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us. I don’t believe in Hell, but if there were one, I’m sure he’d be frying like bacon.
But is this revenge? And does it makes us feel better?
In a quick scan of literature on revenge, I found a paper from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that asks “What makes revenge sweet: Seeing the offender suffer or delivering a message?”
And the answer these researchers came up with is that revenge does its job for us when the offender knows exactly what he or she is being punished for. For full vengeful satisfaction, it’s not enough to see a random bad thing happen to the person, and it’s not enough to exact revenge if the offender doesn’t know that it’s revenge or why it’s happened.
We want to know that we got our point across.