Giving as good as you get often results in even more emotional damage. ELLE Canada gathers expert insights and explores the damaging effects of seeking revenge.
The wounded and the jilted have acted to even the score since the beginning of civilization. In the olden days, revenge even helped keep the peace in society: The Code of Hammurabi, the earliest recorded set of laws, dating back to 1760BC, sanctioned revenge as a way to keep order; the phrase “an eye for an eye” was coined in the Bible; and in Japan’s Edo period, samurai warriors took an oath to seek revenge if their masters were
harmed. Back then, if you messed up, there would be hell to pay, so you behaved.
Today, we have more reasonable laws and police forces and Crown prosecutors that are supposed to keep the world just. Yet DIY-style revenge lives on in a big way.
Admit it: You’ve thought about revenge or have even tried it—recently. Everywhere I turn, revenge is in the spotlight. It’s being celebrated and glorified on TV shows like the Fox drama Revenge and reality TV’s Cheaters (where adulterous partners are caught in the act by a film crew with an angry lover in tow).
In film, Lisbeth Salander, in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is out for it, and Batman is back for one more round. On the radio, I keep hearing Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” (“I dug my key into the side / Of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive”), Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” — a roasting of his ex Britney Spears — and Linkin Park’s vengeful “Burn It Down.”
Even legitimate news shows can’t help but cover retaliation-fuelled incidents, like singer Chris Brown’s recent brawl with Drake, the current love interest of his ex Rihanna, or more sensational tales such as the California woman in the midst of a divorce who cut off her husband’s penis, put it down the garbage disposal and flipped the “on” switch. (She told police that “he deserved it.”)
Writer Eva Nagorski became intrigued by the subject when she was asked to write a fictional blog, called That Girl Emily, about 14 days of revenge to promote a Court TV show. Men and women alike wrote in to tell their stories, and Nagorski shares some of these in her book, The Down and Dirty Dish on Revenge: Serving It Up Nice and Cold to That Lying, Cheating Bastard.
“People across all walks of life and at every income and education level have thought about revenge,” she says. “Culture celebrates it because it’s taboo and titillating. It’s sexy.”
Are you the type to willfully seek out revenge? Find out on the next page...