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Get Past It Instead of Getting Even: Revenge Isn’t Winning

For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first thing many of us think of after someone has wronged or disrespected us is how to get even—how to hand out a dose of that person’s own medicine in an attempt to feel totally vindicated.

Most of us have thought about revenge at one point or another.

Maybe it’s a co-worker, a classmate, a family member, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend, but regardless of the relationship it’s often an instinctive reaction when someone attacks the deepest, most fragile part of ourselves

Does this really accomplish anything positive?

We might gain some personal, though temporary satisfaction, but it does little to ease the pain others have inflicted upon us.

I recently received an unexpected email. While the sender was certainly a surprise, the content of the message and its motivation were not.

The sender was my father, and in what has become my parents’ only way of communicating with me over the last few years, it was a familiar message filled with anger, blame, and defensiveness.

Though this wasn’t the first time my parents had defamed me in this way, it still saddened me for much of the next few days.

Children, especially adolescents, are known for “mouthing off” to their parents while growing up, but it’s hard to imagine this coming from someone who taught you that this was disrespectful.

My relationship with my parents has become difficult to maintain as a free-thinking adult.

I suppose some might say that we should always forgive family members for their faults, especially parents.

But regardless of the relation, at some point you grow tired of others not telling the entire truth; tired of having to defend yourself; tired of being referred to as the cause of someone else’s issues.  

Growing up I had a great deal of respect for my parents. They provided for all of my worldly needs, taught me invaluable lessons and skills, and maintained a true sense of family and tradition within the walls of our home.

Yet something was missing for me, as I was burdened by an inner need to always seek my parents’ approval and acceptance, which rendered me incredibly insecure and anxious growing up.

Eventually, I became completely dependent on them for emotional stability and continual guidance. I didn’t love and trust myself enough to be the keeper of myself, so I allowed my parents to fill that role for me.

As I evolved into an adult, found someone who loved me without conditions, and began to develop a deep appreciation for the person I was, I realized I no longer needed the family dynamic that I was so dependent on for so long.

My parents, however, had a difficult time understanding that I was no longer that insecure, anxious, easily manipulated little boy trying to find his place in the world. I was now an adult, ready to chart his own course.

We started arguing regularly, and many times rather than deal with the repercussions, I would just say I was sorry and return to how our relationship had always been.

This dynamic continued on for many years until one day I offered my opinion and perspective on a complex, delicate matter they were considering. I questioned their motivation and feared the possible outcome, and thought voicing my concern would be appreciated.

I was truly stunned by their reaction.

Letters, emails, character attacks—they even posted hateful comments on a newspaper’s website I contributed to frequently, dragging my name through the proverbial mud in an effort to convince people that I wasn’t the man I proclaimed to be.

I never expected something so heinous from my own parents. I was so taken aback, hurt and angry that my first thought was how to get back at them—to do a little mud-slinging of my own in an attempt at destroying their character, just as they had done to mine.

Then I stumbled upon the following quote, and suddenly everything I thought I understood changed.

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” ~Gandhi

How could I possibly be so naïve to believe that seeking revenge on my own parents would make my actions any better than theirs, let alone change the course of what had already been done?

My revenge would only keep the wound open longer, perpetuating my bitterness and squandering my time on something I couldn’t change. Though never easy, acceptance is key in putting the pain behind you and moving forward with your life.

I began to ask myself: Will I find any inner solace by propagating my anger? If I succeed at getting even, will it really change my reality? Does it make me the better person to do to them what they’ve done to me?

As difficult as it was, instead of arguing and trying to defend myself, I simply said nothing. No replies, no rebuttals, no communication, nothing to engage us in the kind of negative confrontations we were accustomed to.

I’ve learned that living without the drama that so many people thrive on is the only way to live a meaningful life.

I’m far from perfect and those feelings of retribution still creep up now and then, especially when I get an email or letter as I did the other day. But each time the thought pops into my head, I begin to realize something:

Regardless of how justified you might believe you are in seeking your revenge, it’s important to remember that life isn’t a game and simply getting even doesn’t mean you’ve won the battle; it just means you’ve lost your self-respect.

It’s taken me a while to accept that I probably will never see my parents again. Yes, there will be times when I miss the family unit I remember from when I was a little boy; but then I’m forced to remind myself that things will never be as they were again.

It saddens me that my parents are missing out on getting to know the man I truly am, instead of the insecure, anxious little boy they’re convinced still exists.

In truth, I would not be the person I am today without them—a person of character and integrity who’s managed to touch the lives of many, even theirs I’m sure.

In my heart I forgive them for everything that’s gone on, and the peace that provides me is much greater than the fleeting satisfaction of seeking revenge.

Though it might seem impossible, even the bad things that happen in life have a funny way of leading us to a better place. At least, they did for me.

Photo by joybot

Profile photo of Craig James Ruvere

About Craig Ruvere

Craig Ruvere is an award-winning writer, marketer, and designer living in Northern Colorado. For ten years he was an editorial columnist for The Leader newspaper in New Jersey, and currently maintains the popular blog, The View from Here—celebrating over 500 posts in the last four years. He’s also a prolific songwriter and poet who vows one day to try his hand at oil painting.

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  • Louise Jensen

    Beautifully honest Craig. Very touching 🙂

  • Very important message. Thank you, Craig.

  • Thinkgrowlive.com

    This is a topic I reflect on sometimes Craig. Recently I had some bad things done to me by a group of people and wanted SO much to seek revenge, however I understood the laws of the universe and also how little satisfaction I would feel if I did bad to them in return – so I walked away knowing that they would receive their payment for their bad deeds in other ways.
    It is difficult to understand why others do the things they do, but for me it is always good to remember that it is their ‘stuff’ and not mine, that seems to lessen the pain for me.

  • Debbie

    Thanks Craig for sharing your story. This, “remember that life isn’t a game and simply getting even doesn’t mean you’ve won the battle; it just means you’ve lost your self-respect.” is so true.
    I really wonder if you should send them a copy of this post. Maybe than they would realize the wonderful man you have grown into and be proud that they had a hand in making who and what you are.
    Not seeing them ever again can be a long time, Being a parent of grown children myself and i was a single mother it has been hard for me to let go. I have been lucky enough that they do tell me when I need to back off. i listen to them and do understand where they are coming from. Parents of grown children do have to learn to respect there adult children and listen to there opinion and remember that we are never to old to learn from them.
    Thanks again Craig. Good luck to you

  • Craig Ruvere

    Thank you so much for your comments. You just never know what the future will hold, and perhaps sending this along might go a long way to healing some of the wounds. All the best to you…

  • Craig Ruvere

    “it is their stuff and not mine” that is so easy to understand but not so easy to apply to our lives. But in time you realize that people have a lot of issues and rather than dealing with them, they lump them onto someone else. Even family. All the best to you

  • Craig Ruvere

    Thanks for commenting!!!

  • Hang in there, it’s a long road. I haven’t seen my father since I was 12 and my mother and evil stepfather since 18. I am 44 and just now realizing I have thoughts, feelings, strengths and love that they never cultivated or saw.

    Surround yourself with positive people, those who are your kind of “crazy,” we all are. People who support your and love you unconditionally. Therein lies the true happiness in life.

    It is your parent’s loss and nothing that you do or say will change the way they see you or the world. Their thoughts are toxic, but it is their thoughts and their life. No reflection on the person you are. Hold your head high, know that you are worthy of great things and find what in life makes YOU happy. Follow it and don’t look back.

  • Craig Ruvere

    Thank you so much Michelle for you kind words. One never thinks that life should be this hard when it comes to people that supposedly love you. Some choose to accept it as is, while others decide it’s time to get off the ride. Difficult at times? Yes, but as you said, the positive people in life truly make life worth living for. All the best to you 🙂 Craig

  • “Regardless of how justified you might believe you are in seeking your revenge, it’s important to remember that life isn’t a game and simply getting even doesn’t mean you’ve won the battle; it just means you’ve lost your self-respect” Very accurate. How often we feel we seek balance in the universe when someone has done us wrong, only to shoot ourselves in the foot

  • Craig Ruvere

    Yes, I’ve done a lot of “shooting” in my time, but the older I get the more I understand that two wrongs never will make a right. All the best to you and thanks for commenting.

  • Sarah

    Beautifully said and such a valuable story! Thank you for sharing!

  • Craig Ruvere

    Thank you for commenting Sarah. I hope that my story truly inspires others who are going through much of the same. All the best 🙂

  • lv2terp

    Wonderful points!!! Thank you or sharing, and I am saddened that parents could be so horrid to their child. 🙁 I am glad that you have worked through such adversity, and share some amazing wisdom from your experience!

  • AJ

    Thank you Craig! SO beautifully and wonderfully said. “the peace that provides me is much greater than the fleeting satisfaction of seeking revenge” that really spoke to me, in a costs-benefit analysis sort of way (lol)….peace > revenge. Best of wishes to you, continue to be an inspiration with your words!

  • pam

    Every minute I think about my revenge on her, is 60 seconds I SMILE.

  • You are very welcome, have a great weekend!

  • Angie

    Thank you so much! I often feel quite alone when i tell people how hard my parents make my life sometimes. I went through a similar experience. Being an only child and and only daughter, I was raised in the belief that i’d need them for everything all the time. Luckily for me, I grew up headstrong, too. As my friends gained independence I was still scared of my parents and felt that i had to ask them before doing anything. I managed to free myself, but they still try to blackmail me emotionally, going on about my duties as a daughter as a retribution for paying for my studies. We speak once a week – I should say scream at each other once a week. I am lucky to live abroad now – but the burden of having to call every Sunday night at 8 pm sharp is almost unbearable. Whenever i am busy or late, my parents start what i call telefon-terrorism, making calls to my mobile and home phone every two min. When i try to explain that they are not the centre of my life, they say I’m disrespectful of my duties and that i have no right of having a life they don’t have access to. I started to ignore their calls, but it didn’t help. I now resort to put the phone down whenever things get awry and call back again 20 min later. Still, things get worse but i won’t allow myself to be bullied into being sb i am not or into being a bad person. THANK YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN

  • AceOfSpaces

    Craig, thanks for the article. My parents are similar, but I am struggling to be free of the need to follow their desires and neglect my own – I feel manipulated, but not explicitly by them – implicitly, by what they have taught me over the past two decades of my life. I was wondering how you managed to finally break free? Thank you.

  • Kate

    Hi Craig

    Thank you for this posting. You’ve helped me see that revenge is for the powerless and that speaking your truth, respectfully, is the way to go. I’ll admit to doing a fair bit of retaliating in my time – it seemed only fair for others to get a little of what they dished out! When I feel tempted to do this, I know it’s because I’m not owning and expressing what I really feel; fear of punishment sometimes makes low-level little digs more manageable than honesty, but this always leaves me feeling like I’ve let myself down. So thank you, Craig. This is a subject I need to keep reading about. All best wishes, Kate

  • Dr.Sanjeev George

    well said!

  • BobbyBobbyBobby

    When my mind gets carried away enough to start thinking of revenge, if I wait just a little while longer for the thinking to wind out, the idea revenge makes me feel silly or brutish or cruel…or even a little sick…and I let the whole messy wave of thought to disperse.

  • Cherry

    I wish I had found this post a few days ago. I decided to exact revenge and told my ex’s girlfriend the truth that he had been cheating on her with me. He had hurt me so badly and pushed me over the edge with more hurtful words that I snapped and thought if I hurt him back then we would be even and I can finally feel better. But I didn’t feel that satisfaction that I’d expected. I only felt sad and disappointed in myself for letting it get to me that I did something so horrible.

  • Mima

    Great article! It occurred to me as I read it, that sometime in the future you might consider sending it to your parents. Maybe it’s time they learned from you:-)

  • Luca Samson

    That was a really excellent read!

    I also believe that it has to do with acceptance. You have to accept what comes your way, and be the bigger man. Your will to not get taunted in to fights will grow stronger and it will only reveal the weakness and self-consciousnesses of others.

    It is the meaning of acceptance

  • Raghav Sharma

    Craig, I feel connected to your story. If it is not too much to ask, can you tell me what was the exact issue on which you had a disagreement with your parents? I mean it is a private thing but it will give me some perspective in dealing with my disappointment with my parents and their actions. Without the detail, the story seems vague. My e-mail is raghavsharma1986@gmail.com

  • Ethically Confused

    What does a person do when they feel tremendous compassion and forgiveness for someone who deeply hurt him/her personally but there is an issue that must be reported? I recently found out just after the last in a series of hurtful encounters that this person violated an institution’s code of ethics in a very severe way. Ethically, in my position, I’m supposed to report this, especially because it appears to be ongoing and is a major problem that the institution is trying to end. The damage to the person’s career could be major, and I don’t want to harm that because I have forgiven him/her for what he/she did to me personally. But there was a major fraud committed. What do I do?

  • Guest

    Great post! I wish I came across this post earlier when I was going through something. I think I get why we lose self respect when we try to get back at someone. Taking revenge means that we’re essentially stooping to the other person’s level where we lose ourselves. We may even lose our morals along the way. Doing nothing is so hard but I’m learning to shrug it off when someone disrepects me. In a way, when we do nothing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person won but that they’re not worth our time. Surely when a person disrepects me intentionally, the person wants a reaction by pushing my buttons. I don’t think revenge satisfies anyone nor does it achieve anything. If I take revenge, I’m only giving into what the other person wants me to do. It may be a start of an unnecessary drama especially when the person who disrespected me sees it as an opportunity to create unwanted drama and win. I think part of being an adult is to be able to control ourselves instead of letting our emotions take over us like children in situations where we feel threatened or hurt. Easier said than done but it probably takes practice.

  • DogDharma

    I have just found this article and it very much speaks to something currently on my mind. Revenge, “an eye for an eye,” is definitely a slippery slope. But sometimes (often? frequently?), the person who harmed you has also harmed others and continues a path of harm by their own choice. A rape victim might want “revenge,” but she would also want the perpetrator held accountable so there would be no future victims, or perhaps (unlikely) the rapist would see the error of his ways, and holding him accountable might be something that brings about his change. Don’t we have a duty to speak out about wrongs that have been done to us so that other innocent victims might not be harmed? I come back to the famous quote, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Would appreciate any comments.

  • Willson Tan

    thanks for this inspiring post. i have deep revenge and hatred and was so pain and depressing. I hope i can really just let go and not get even and as you said it, it loses my self respect. the only way is accept their flaws and imperfections and have a bigger heart to accommodate their weakness

  • greatdane

    Whilst this might be true for you, do not presume to speak for everyone, there is real evil in this world that goes unpunished, and I’m not talking about the trivial things like breakups, or being slighted by someone. I’m talking about abuse that leaves someone scarred for the rest of their lives.

  • bubbles

    This article really speaks to me and my current situation. A few weeks ago my apartment was broken into and my safe with three years of savings in cash was taken. I work from home as a massage therapist. I live in a large building, with maintenance staff, a front desk, delivery men, furniture movers coming and going, I have a lot of clients, and a few close friends. So, you can imagine who my mind has been. I have been running with this scenario or that scenario. I have lost about 15lbs, have been depressed, and I know it is going to take me a long time to heal from this. Some people say it was probably someone who knows me, others say it was a fluke or random bad luck, while others think it was an inside job maintenance etc… However, the fact remains, I will probably never know. Sometimes I feel like texting someone, a person who in my gut I feel may have done this to me. But, I do not know 100 percent that this person actually took the time to scope out my apartment. I have a very random schedule, and you cannot seen in from the street, and I live in an enclosed hallway, so it would be obvious if someone was hanging out. The fact of the matter is I will never get the money back i worked so hard to save. i like to believe in karma, but i think that is something we tell ourselves to make us feel better. Even my chakra therapist does not believe in the theory or karma .”They are probably out enjoying fancy coffees, gambiling or buying drugs with your hard earned savings, there are evil people in the world and do not feel guilty for stealing”. The one person I think it may be is an acupuncturist, but It’s hard to imagine someone would risk losing a license which is very time consuming to get, and expensive, not to mention the 2-6 years in prison. Anyway, I just have to pick up the pieces and re-build… and also a big life lesson on not to keep more than like 2k in the house for emergency purposes. I was just stock piling it, rather than putting into my bank account.. Sometimes like really sucks.. LOL but sometimes it’s really good.. I know that this experience is hitting me in my shame area. I feel so foolish, and taken advantage of.. But I have learned so much about thieves in general. Moving companies a lot of times will see what you have and then come back a few months later.. Also, running a biz from home.. People will send out scouts to scope out the place while pretending to be a customer, and then have someone else do the hit. same with moving co’s , its usually one person, who tells his gang members or friends who are pros at breaking and entering. that way no one ever finds out about it. another thing that happens.. it location EFIX data on photos from iphones etc.. if you are taking photos at home and u have location settings turned on, stalkers , burglars etc can find out your exact home address using the EFIX data on your Facebook photos instangram twitter etc… and most of the time its people you dont even know.. be careful out there..

  • Soren

    …you lose your self-respect when you let someone walk all over you not when you stand up for yourself, revenge takes you out of victim mode and moves you closer to your power, and once you’ve regained your power no one can f**k with you and then you won’t have to worry about revenge now would you? If you’re attracting people and experiences that make you feel powerless it is because that’s how you already feel – powerless – and changing that within yourself with help you regain your power, confidence and self-worth, and if taking a little bit of harmless revenge will help you accomplish that, so be it. The Law of Attraction says that you draw that which is similar unto yourself…and that’s your responsibility, your part…but the other person is responsible for whatever evil they decide to do to you.

  • Bob

    Great article!! This has really helped me. I agree with the fact that acceptance is the key. Please continue to write, as you have done me a great favor. Thank you so much.

  • Just stumbled upon this page, Craig as I was doing a research for my Blog post on revenge. I myself is facing a similar situation these days. Though my family is cute but they look lost these days in the ego filled world and this started giving me lot of anxiety, so I am staying away from them. I miss them, cry for them but I know this is the right thing to do at this time when nobody is ready to understand. In my heart I have forgiven everybody and love them and your post tells me I am not alone facing such dilemma!!

  • GypsyGirl

    Thank you…this was a very well written post and one that I needed to read. I have the opportunity of dealing with an extremely vindictive person and have learned a great deal about how low some people will go to ‘get even’. I am not defined by their anger, resentment, or cruelty. In the end neither of us wins, we keep living our own lives.

  • Willson

    i think i would see in in this persepective…they hurt us, cheat us, disrespect, threaten, play mind games. and we are badly affected. Badly? is it our ego, pride or self interest affected? So, i believe Buddha or God will remain unaffected because lies inside them is just pure compassion, pure detachment and pure kindness….so what really affect is is actually a way God tell us to let go, some of our deeply attached self interest, gain , loss, pride, ego and selfishness…it’s a way to lead us a purer kinder path….revenge isnt it an act of evil and devil to lure towards badness, cruelity, and hatred. so, i guess in this world, we are fighting to go between good and evil. secondly, if we believe in karma and even if not, in chritian it said we are born with sins, and sins is paid via suffering and loss, isnt the loss and pain we endure someway lead us a better future with some karma and sins paid off…so i guess is not us to judge how bad other is or how bad they treated us, our job and responsibility to is show our goodness and influence other is possible and not go to their level….it’s a way a tribulation happened to demand us to grow and let go…take care

  • Willson

    also sometimes we are so indulge in revenge in the name of satisfying the unsatisfied soul, the pain or (to get even in normal term), but in reality, isnt it a way to avoid the pain and selfish way to get pleasure. and sometimes, pain in a way is inevitable just like suffering is part and parcel of life. suffering even as Siddharta Buddha said it comes from clinging and attachment. So, the pain we had actually is the attachment to selfish pursuit, interest, pleasure and desire. and we attach to our pride, ego too and when we get even, we attach to resentment, hatred and attach more to jealousy and revenge. isn’t this the whole point, a lot of tribulation and test happened to stir to thing we cant see or intangible. isnt letting go something intangible. is not like we let go our bag or book. even if we lost a phone. we may still attach strongly in our heart. so to truly let go is to accept the loss, accept thing change, and nothing permanant, nothing last and nothing to be cherish. let go is a way to seem like losing and actually it make us bigger, complete because we are an inner consciousness that when we let go, we connect to the source of our true self, the pure one consciousness of compassion…

  • Denzeal

    True indeed!!