Abuse, Happiness, Values

Living Well Is The Best Revenge

Yesterday, Meg asked me whether it messed with her karma to wish someone bad karma for the harm they’d done her.

So far as I know, no one goes through life without being screwed over at one time or another. Meg is in her early twenties and currently discovering that the odds we will always be treated fairly are so slim as to be irrelevant. She has a petty, malicious, despicable boss who hates her, and — more importantly — is too weak to fire her outright, and too immoral not to screw with her.

My advice to Meg is simple: Quit her job, find a better one, and instead of dwelling on the injustices done her, demand for herself a better job and a better life.

Unless I’m very mistaken, wishing people harm for the harm they’ve done us is usually a trap. It focuses us on the past, about which we can do nothing. It distracts us from our most important concern — creating our own happiness. It’s actually a ridiculous escape from the challenge of living well.

Living well is the best revenge.

13 thoughts on “Living Well Is The Best Revenge”

  1. I dimly remember from my Buddhist days that you can incur bad karma by wishing bad things to happen to people.

    But karma aside, I agree with your reasons for thinking it’s a really bad idea, Paul. Wanting bad things to happen keeps us stuck in the past. Blaming others can also blind us to the fact that we do have choices – so long as we can choose to go elsewhere, we’re not helpless victims.

    In similar situations, I’ve found, and I hope Meg will also find, that these clouds have a very silver lining. It may be this guy’s awful behaviour was exactly what she needed to get her to move on to a better job, and in the process learn an important lesson about how people can mess with you.

    It gives a strange sort of power to think that someone who’s treated you badly has probably done you a favour, and learnt nothing himself – definitely a very effective form of revenge!

    (Good to see you back by the way – hope you’ve had a good break!)


  2. Hi Lirone! It’s good to be back, although it’s going to take me a while to catch up.

    I too find it interesting that sometimes those who treat us poorly seem to be doing us a favor. I learned a great deal about abuse from my ex-wife and what I’ve learned has strengthened both my resolve not to abuse others and my awareness and understanding of precisely how to go about not abusing others. In that way, it seems she did me quite a favor — although I would hope there are more sane ways to learn the same lessons.


  3. Ah since we’re on the subject. From good old Buddha himself:

    “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

    Good to see you back!


  4. I view anger and wishing to do ill to others a way to trap poisonous sentiments inside our own “sack of stuff” we are burdened to carry with us no matter where we find ourselves. Negatives are unbearable burdens, while positives are treasures to carry. G


  5. I agree that living well is the best revenge and the best way to handle petty people is to ignore them. But that comes with some training – in the short term I guess there is no bad karma involved if wishing bad things for them helps you cope with the situation – you are only wishing, not doing anything bad to them, right?


  6. This was just another fantastic post and I couldn’t agree more. In my experience getting revenge by living your own life, enjoying it, and succeeding are better than actually causing damage to another.

    Throughout my musical career I was always last chair for trumpet section cause I never cared or tried. Finally my parents said I could get a brand new shiny trumpet if I practiced and showed them I cared. So I did and my talents really came out. I had natural musical talent I didn’t know existed and I shot from last chair to second chair in one tryout.

    Needless to say the teacher for some BS reason (I really think she hated and loathed me and just hid it well) moved me down 3 chairs after I shot up to second chair. No one really knew why and her reason made no sense. Well I internalized her decision and got pissed off and gave up. And never really amounted to anything with the trumpet.

    I realize now that I proved her right in her mind when instead I should have worked my ass off to become something amazing. That would have benefited me, pissed her off more, and would have had all the students on my side if she tried anything else.

    Living well is truly the best form of revenge.


  7. I agree with you entirely Paul. What you wrote resonated with me because my mom always told us that everything happens for the best. It is one of the lessons of life that I have imbibed from my mother. Thank you for writing about this.
    Also, if people cannot let go (I never had a problem with that in my life somehow though I have had my share of problems ) I think they don’t want to let go…they are getting something out of the grudge. I don’t hold a grudge for more than 5 mins, and I think of myself a happier person for that. 🙂


  8. I do sync with your thoughts on this, but can’t help feeling the need for retribution if someone grievously wrongs you. Usually, normal broken relationships would not be cause for this feeling.
    Do you get what I am saying?


  9. @Purnima: That’s a great quote! Thank you!

    @Suburbanlife: I think anger and the desire for revenge are indeed poisonous. Good point!

    @Steppen Wolf: Thanks for the link update and the warm compliment! 🙂

    @Usha: You raise a very interesting question! Is wishing someone’s harm as bad for you as doing someone harm? I’m going to have to think some more on that one! Thank you!

    @Webs: You’ve illustrated my point better than I did! Thank you so much for that!

    @Shefaly: I would agree with you if that’s the sense in which I took the saying, “Living well is the best revenge.” But I interpret that saying a bit differently: I think of it as meaning that we should leave the past be and then get on with our lives. That’s to say, I don’t see it as meaning that we should try to live well as a means of taking revenge.

    @Nita: Thank you for the kind words! I think your mother was very wise to teach you what she did. With an attitude like hers, a person is prepared to turn life’s lemons into sweet lemonade.

    @Doc: There are circumstances under which I would take action against someone — if, for instance, I judged that taking action against them was the best way to prevent them from doing more mischief in the future. And if that is how I see the situation, then the quicker I settle it, the better. Is that what you mean?

    What I’m arguing against in the post is not swift retribution for the sake of preventing more wrongs being done, but dwelling on taking revenge, nursing a grudge — that sort of thing.

    @Enreal: Thanks! 🙂


  10. A year-and-a-half later…

    Paul: I totally agree with your piece here, especially the part about creating your own happiness. You truly have to reach for and seize the “brass ring” of happiness, and create positivity and peace for yourself, your family, and those you meet every day.

    I do have one point I’d like to express. My mother had an embroidered pillow that read, “Living Well is the Best Revenge.” (She also had a borderline personality disorder.) I was always puzzled when I say that prominently displayed pillow on her couch. “Revenge against what?” I wondered.

    Revenge, by its definition, is a negative response against those people who have committed a real or perceived wrongdoing in your life. It’s a punishment.

    I genuinely do not understand how “living well” (which is defined internally by each individual) is getting revenge. Isn’t part of “living well” creating a positive environment for yourself and others?

    The ultimate goal of revenge is to create suffering in those who have made you suffer. George Herbert coined the phrase, “Living Well is the Best Revenge” four hundred years ago, but it seems to me that these are two entirely different concepts in complete collision with one another.

    Even though I’ve been wronged deeply in my past, I have no desire for any kind of revenge against those wrongdoers. It does not matter if they are in the past, present, or future. Revenge is bad karma. It will come back and bite you on the butt someday.

    So, Paul (I’ll bet you’ll remember my name!), I am with you 99.9% on what you wrote here. I choose, however, to live well without revenge.

    By the way, my mother had a fight with her best friend, who originally embroidered the pillow for her, and she threw the pillow out in a snit. I guess she got her revenge, eh? And, although I will spare you the gruesome details, she certainly did not live well. I truly hope that her spirit is resting at peace now.

    Keep up the great work, Paul!


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