When someone hurts us- really hurts us- it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about how we can get back at them. Here’s the thing, though: that only hurts YOU more. If you really want the best revenge of all, just go on living your life. Let’s discuss.
The Best Revenge Is to Just Go on Living Your Life
An eye for an eye. A dish best-served cold. The sweetest morsel. Look up revenge and you’ll find dozens of these little cliché sayings about the joys of getting back at someone.
My favorite, though, is one by George Herbert. It goes, “Living well is the best revenge.” In other words, rather than plotting your retaliation, just go on living your life. Trust me, it works better than any retribution you can dream up.
Why Living Well is Truly the Best Revenge
To understand why living well is the best revenge, we need to consider why we want to take it in the first place. Sure, sometimes you may think about ways to get back at a neighbor who sets off fireworks at 2 AM, especially if you have a migraine and just want to sleep.
You may even plot to drive to their house at 6 AM and blast really loud heavy metal music. Morning comes, though, and you get over it as any healthy person does.
No, chances are you save your real hardcore thoughts of retaliation for people who hurt you. Like REALLY hurt you. Honestly, it’s not worth your energy to try to get back at them. Sometimes, it’s even downright mean.
See, people tend to hurt us for two reasons. Some do it completely by accident. It’s not really rational or healthy to seek revenge against someone who didn’t even intend to hurt you in the first place. In fact, studies show that only people with a truly cruel streak enjoy seeking revenge in these situations.
Then there are the people who hurt us on purpose. They do it because they are careless and cruel because they are fundamentally bad people. They want to see us suffer, to see us in pain. More importantly, they want to stay on our minds, in our thoughts, invading our sleep and our lives.
When it comes to those people- showing indifference by continuing to live your life truly is the very best form of revenge.
To those who hurt you, indifference is worse than hate and anger
Hating someone takes up a lot of energy. So does being angry with someone. The types of people who actually want to cause you pain- typically narcissists-thrive on causing those emotions. After all, as long as you’re actively hating someone, you’re thinking about them.
Indifference, on the other hand, is the bane of a narcissist’s existence. When you’re indifferent to someone, you’re not thinking about them at all. Without any effort on your part, you’re saying through your actions, “I don’t care what you do. You’re not important to me. You’re not a part of my life. You cannot hurt me.” Trust me, that upsets them far more than any petty act of retaliation could ever do.
Side note, if someone is actually trying to physically hurt you or emotionally abuse you, call the police and/or file a restraining order first. THEN go on living your life. Living well is the best revenge, yes, but never jeopardize your safety to make a point.
So, now we understand why just going on living your life is the best way to get back at someone who hurts you. Now, let’s talk about how it’s better for your mental health, too.
A vengeful heart is an unhealthy heart (literally)
Feeling vengeful and seeking revenge can have truly negative impacts on our health. Research has shown that people who hold grudges and seek revenge have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, which can lead to a weakened immune system and increased risk of developing physical health problems.
One study found that holding onto anger and seeking revenge can have negative effects on your heart health. Researchers at the University College London found that people who reported higher levels of anger and a desire for revenge had higher blood pressure and a higher risk of developing heart disease. This suggests that holding onto those negative emotions really can have lasting effects on our physical health.
Another study done by researchers at Hope College in Holland found that participants who reported high levels of anger and a desire for revenge were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation. As you know, inflammation is linked to a ton of different health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. On the other hand, that same study also found that forgiveness was associated with lower levels of inflammation, suggesting that forgiveness may be a protective factor against negative health outcomes.
Maybe that’s why Confucius said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” The act of seeking vengeance is so bad for you in so many ways that you’ll destroy yourself- mind, body, and soul – in the process.
Revenge rarely gives us the closure we’re looking for
Whether you call it “doling out justice,” “righting a wrong,” or just “pure retribution,” we typically seek revenge to balance out some imaginary scales. Someone hurts us, we hurt them back. Once it’s done, we’re supposed to feel closure, right?
Wrong. See, here’s the thing revenge: it’s all-consuming. It takes up our time and our energy. It gives us something to focus on. The problem? We’re not focusing on healing, on getting past what was done to us, on forgiving that person (if that’s even possible). We’re consumed with anger, hatred, stress, and every other negative emotion under the sun.
When it’s over, when we’ve balanced those scales, that’s when the real emotions kick in. Without all that rage blocking our pain, we have no choice but to feel it. All we’ve managed to do is prolong it. We’ve left it to rot and fester, to grow and invade our entire lives.
Instead of balancing those scales, we’ve actually given the object of our retaliation exactly what they wanted…an even bigger part in our life and a chance to draw out the suffering that they’ve inflicted even more.
True closure comes from within, and seeking revenge on someone else won’t bring us the peace we need to move on from the situation. Instead, we need to focus on finding ways to deal with emotions and move forward in a more healthy and positive way.
So, when someone hurts you, deal with it right away. Talk about it to a loved one or cry it out in public. Feel your feelings. Then tell yourself, “I will not give this person more power by wasting another second thinking about them.” Put them in a box in the attic of your brain and go on living your life. Not only is it really the best revenge, but it’s the only truly healthy revenge.
Thank you for this.