When I was in grade school down at St. Theresa Academy, then St. Theresa School, then Cross Roads School, in Rhodelia, Ky.,
I was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. They were very good to me and I loved them, flaws and all, because they loved me, flaws and all!
One of the phrases I heard in school back then was part of a song I heard on the radio recently, “taking names.” When I was a kid, and sister had to leave the room, she always appointed someone to “take names.” That meant that when she got back she could punish the students who “acted up” while her back was turned. To be drafted to be the class snitch was a great honor that came with a conflicted pay-off. You got rewarded by sister, but punished by her victims.
It occurred to me that many people go through life “taking names” of people they want to punish. No slight goes unnoticed or unremembered by them.
While it is understandable that some people in pain would seek revenge, in the end it is so counter-productive. As one professor said to us in class somewhere along the line in the seminary, “Revenge is like stabbing and elephant from underneath. It will surely fall on you and crush you to death.” Anne Lamott said something similar. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
Others have put it in other ways. “Revenge is not always sweet, once it is consummated we feel inferior to our victim,” Emile M. Cioran said.
“I don’t seek revenge, but I never forget. And I make it hard to repair, which is not a great quality because if people held me to that standard, no one would be around me — ever,” said Amy Adams.
“He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well,” John Milton said.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves,” said Confucius.
There is a pay-off for “letting it go.” “In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but passing it over, he is superior,” Francis Bacon said.
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury,” said Marcus Aurelius.
However, there is a kind of revenge that does work. I know. I have lived it. “The people who influenced me most were the
people who said I would never make it. They gave me a thirst for revenge,” Colin Mochrie said. In other words, the healthiest kind of revenge is to prove them wrong.
For all the broken hearted teenage girls out there, here are a few encouraging words just for you: The best revenge you could ever do to one who broke your heart? Nothing, just let that person see that you are happy without him. And, if another woman steals your man, there is no better revenge than letting her keep him.
Father J. Ronald Knott