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Which Is Sweeter–Justice Or Revenge?

Basement Revenge

In popular culture, revenge is celebrated. There’s the basement-of-humanity view of revenge (think reality shows, tabloids, stuff on some social media, movies, etc.) “Revenge is sweet,” they scream. Retaliate. 

But is it sweet?  If you think about it, it’s only a difference of degree between gangs/crime organizations that exact revenge and the rest of us.

Penthouse of Acceptance and Selfless Compassion

There is the 20th floor penthouse of acceptance and selfless compassion: Those in the penthouse know that everything is Divinely ordained, and therefore acceptance is the key to alleviate personal suffering. There are great views from the penthouse.

Most of us expect to fall somewhere in between, perhaps, the 12th floor.

Sure, the penthouse may be a spiritual and emotional ideal, even a goal, but the elevator is out of service and we have to take the stairs. Step by step by step.

Why Not Seek Revenge?

Revenge consumes your emotional energy.

It gives the other person the awareness that they “got” you.

It lowers you and it OWNS you.

Revenge ties you up and forces you to focus your thoughts on something painful and even hateful.

Extinguishing that lust for revenge – by cultivating mercy and compassion and acceptance in its place – is possible if you practice.

The power you gain is power over your own emotions.

Living Well Is The Best Revenge

The argument can be made for succeeding in response to humiliation or harm by others. Someone slaps you down, you’ll “show them.” What could be wrong with success?

It depends.

If you’re living your life in reaction to someone’s unpleasant treatment of you, then you are still living life half-way.

Truly living well means choosing not only what you do with your life, but why you do it.

Revenge vs. Justice

We often confuse the two. A good percentage of us can’t stand perceived unfairness. It drives us to distraction to know that there is something unfair going on that could possibly be rectified.

But sometimes we confuse the two. We all know the line: It’s not the (fill in the blank), it’s the principle.

In order to know if you seek justice or if you just want to watch that bully squirm, ask yourself these questions about the actions you are taking:

Will this action provide fair restitution/moral rightness for the harm caused? (Justice)

Will this action be harmful to the other person? (Revenge)

Is the action fueled by bitterness? (Revenge)

Is your response fueled by your desire for fairness, that is not excessively tinged by bitter, angry feelings. (Justice)

Is it a lawful response to a criminal or harmful act? (Justice)

Is it an unlawful or egregiously harmful act? (Revenge)

Are your actions rational? (Justice)

Are your actions driven by hateful emotions? (Revenge)

Are you retaliating? (Revenge)

Are you seeking correction and balance? (Justice)

Yes, there is overlap. Yes, deciding what motivates you can be difficult and confusing. But you can tap into your higher-self and seek justice.

Which Is Sweeter–Justice Or Revenge?

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2015). Which Is Sweeter–Justice Or Revenge?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Dec 2015
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