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By Father Eugene Hemrick

Yeshua Institute Fellow

As I watched jets retaliate for the deaths of three American soldiers while also retaliating against Houthis -- and then viewed Israel’s attack against Hamas -- I thought, “we are in an age of revenge like never before.”

Never before have we been able to view brutal daily revenge in the media. Never before have we experienced images of violence, devastating destruction and so intimately experience the torment of men, women, and children who were brutalized.

Salient quotes on revenge remind us of its psychological, physical and spiritual damage.

Douglas Horton warns, “While seeking revenge, dig two graves --- one for yourself.”

Jeremy Taylor points out, “Revenge . . . is like a rolling stone, which when a man has forced it uphill, will return upon him with a greater violence and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.”

Coretta Scott King cries, “Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear and violence.”

Francis Bacon warns, “A man that studies revenge keeps his own wounds green.”

On the other hand, Josh Billings says, “There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.”

Marcus Aurelius concurs, “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”

Can we avoid its toll?

How do we control revenge from destroying us humanly and spiritually?

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that fraternal correction is an essential part of love. In retaliation, loving fraternity must not fall by the wayside. Even though we may wish to crucify a contemptible person, he or she is our sibling.

The first rule of justice is we are created by God to be responsible beings for each other. God meant us to be social beings, not recluses. As Christ died for us, we are created to practice the principle of living for the human and spiritual good of another.

Difficult? Most certainly and St. Paul tells why.

To be “redeemed” and to adhere to Christ means that within the “old” man in us there is also the beginning of a “new” man. But the old man remains with his urges and inclinations, good and bad. Two centers are now active, two men are contending with each other. Often the good man is overcome by the old.

In the psalms, the psalmist tells us that psalms addressing revenge are reminders that revenge is imbedded within humankind: the old man – original sin and Cain’s revenge – lies dormant within all of us.

It is easy to say, “Retaliation is the only way to stop the enemy and teach it a lesson.” But when retaliation turns to savage brutality it is never justifiable and often comes back to haunt us.

History teaches there are better ways to avoid revenge, ways that create the true person in us – the one God created us to be. Time-proven examples of reconciliation exist, leaving us the choice to embrace the old man or new man in us.

Which will it be?