The Emptiness of Revenge

It made me so furious that I had to keep putting the book down. A young girl, still a teenager, alone in a new country, facing her fears and the unknown with the hope that she can do something for her family and at least save them from starving to death. She was vulnerable and others saw that and used it to benefit themselves. Her landlords, also Italian immigrants like herself, said they would help her send money back to her family since she, being a girl and unable to read, wasn’t allowed or able to make such a transaction at the bank on her own.  They told her they were sending her money to her family, but they weren’t.

At work in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory her supervisor, also an Italian immigrant, would yell at her to work faster. He would criticize her mistakes and dock her pay for any small mishap, whether real or perceived. The first week on the job he didn’t pay her at all telling her she was training and workers weren’t paid to be trained.

The book is fiction, but my heart broke for this young girl.

I wondered what I would do if it was me and the were suddenly tables were turned overnight. What if the next day she went to work and she was the supervisor and he was at the sewing machine?  What would I do with that new power after being yelled at over and over again for months? How would I treat the person who had made me work long days by turning back the clock and allowing me only a few breaks to stand and stretch or use the bathroom? How would I treat him?  I would be extremely tempted to treat him the very same way he treated me. I would want him to suffer the way he made me suffer. I would want him to feel what it is like to work at a sewing machine all day while being yelled at only to find out at the end of the week that half your paycheck is being withheld because you made a couple of mistakes.

I also just recently listen to LaDonna on This American Life. It’s basically a modern-day version of the same story. People in a higher position of power being cruel and demeaning to those below them and getting away with it, and those in those lower positions having very little power to do anything about it. It’s aggravating. It’s like watching someone fall in slow motion right in front of you and you can’t do a thing about it because there is this big wall of glass between you and them. So you just have to sit there and watch it slowly unfold before you and unable to do anything about it. But what makes it even worse is that they’re not just tripping, someone is shoving them over. I kept thinking how satisfying it would be to take LaDonna’s supervisors and switch roles and let them see if they liked being treated the same way they were treating others and give them a taste of their own sick and twisted sense of humor. Let them see what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their actions.

I guess that’s why Moroni stood out to me so much this week. He is in a similar situation. The Lamanites are mad and have started a war all because of Amelikiah, who use to be a Nephite, got upset when he wasn’t elected to be king. So he joined the Lamanites, worked his way up the top to become king through fraud and deceit. Amelikiah arranged to have the Lamanite king killed and then he married the dead king’s wife. Now, as the king, he stirs up the Lamanites and convinces them to go to war against the Nephites. There is not just cause for this war. Amelikiah is fueled by his own selfish ambition. It’s not about protecting his people and their lands and their rights. It’s about his gain and power. When the Lamanites get slaughtered, he gets mad at them for not winning. No remorse just mad telling them they should have done better.

Eventually, things start to change for the Lamanites and they start winning and taking over many of the Nephite cities and Moroni is mad, really mad. Moroni is also very clever.

Through an ingenious plan he is able to turn the tables on more than one occasion and move from being the underdog to having the Lamanites at his mercy, he could wipe out the entire army of the Lamanites, but he doesn’t (Alma 52, 55). Moroni isn’t passive about the injustice of the Lamanites.

How often do we seek to get even with those who have wronged us? We even cheer when those who once hurt us, get hurt. We rejoice in their suffering and pain. It is tempting to play out our own version of the sad story of The Count of Monte Cristo. Revenge is a poison that lulls you to believe that you are finally finding relief through the satisfaction of your enemy’s pain.  Revenge is a chimeric feast of Narnia Turkish Delight that leaves you empty.