Is Revenge Moral?
If you hurt me, I’m going to hurt you back.
This statement may be a Q1 violation if you think that two wrongs don’t make a right or that violence is never (or rarely) justified.
This statement does not violate Q2 so long as you would not blame someone who feels justified targeting you for revenge.
The temptation to commit revenge can be quite strong, particularly in a situation where revenge has the air of justice about it. But before you consider seeking revenge for a wrong done, you need to ponder Q2 particularly carefully.
If you were the person who did the wrong, would you blame the victim for seeking revenge? What if you are sorry? What if the harm was unintentional? What if you didn’t even realize you were doing harm? What if you offered to make restitution but the offer was rejected?
What kind of revenge is justified? Do you do the same thing to the offender that they did to you? What if that’s not possible? What if an innocent party is the obvious revenge target — if a man slaps your son, do you slap his son?
How much revenge is fair? If the offender feels that your revenge was larger in magnitude than the original offense, do they now have the right to seek revenge against you for the overage? Can can multiple small acts of vengeance be used as retribution for one large offense?
What is the time limit on revenge, if any? Would you blame someone for walking up to you at work and punching you in the face because you punched him in the face in high school? Or would you say he "owed you" the punch?
Can revenge be taken against groups instead of individuals? Can you strike at a family for something a member of the family did? Can a business seek revenge on another business? A country on another country?
In which (if any) of the following circumstances would revenge be justified?
- Many years ago, a man stole $2,000 from your business and fled town. You have finally located the man, but the statute of limitations on the crime has run out so you cannot have him arrested.
- You got food poisoning after eating at a franchise fast-food restaurant. The chain’s corporate office wouldn’t pay you the pain and suffering money you demanded from them, but you bet they’d pay if you "found" a rat part in a batch of their French fries.
- A man ran into your daughter’s car with his own, killing your daughter and two of your daughter’s friends. Even thought the man had been drinking, the court found him not guilty because he was having a heart attack at the time of the accident. However, the man has shown no remorse for taking three young lives.
- Your dog got into the neighbor’s yard, ate some rat poison they’d put behind a shed, and died. Your dog would still be alive if they’d taken better care of their fence.
- Your best friend promised not to tell Lawrence Martin that you had a crush on him, but she did tell him and you were completely humiliated. This same friend just confided to you that she’s gay but doesn’t want anyone to know.
- While you’re visiting your brother, your brother’s wife comes home early from work, sees your car in the driveway, and assumes that it’s the car of some floozy that your brother is having an affair with. She keys the car in anger, but after finding the truth refuses to pay for the damage because, "if you hadn’t come over without telling her, it never would have happened." She has a little red sports car that she’s very proud of.
- Great-Granddad Hatfield shot Granddad McCoy because Great-Granddad McCoy stole one of the Hatfield’s chickens but Granddad McCoy denied it and said Great-Granddad Hatfield was a liar. Your father, Pa McCoy vowed vengeance on the Hatfields but never got it. All parties mentioned above are now deceased, but Luke Hatfield — the murdering Hatfield’s great grandson — just got a job at the same factory where you work.
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.