Blog Entry #7 - The Morality of Revenge

Revenge is a controversial topic. On one hand, one may argue that it is human nature to inflict revenge upon someone who has hurt you or somebody that you care about. On the other hand, it may be viewed as a grave sin. People’s opinion on revenge can vary from culture to culture and religion to religion, but generally, I find it challenging to think of any worldview where revenge can be considered a just response to evil. In most religions, it is not one’s decision to inflict revenge, as that would be playing God. God has a plan for everyone, and it is his choice how he wants to respond to a situation.

St. Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the Catholic Church’s greatest philosophers and theologians states in his theory of justice that justice is “the highest of all moral values” (UCF.edu). In addition, he explains that, “For by [natural law] God ordains us to final happiness by implanting in us both a general knowledge of and inclination for goodness” (IEP.UTM.edu). Natural law comes from what God tells us which is known as “eternal law”. When we participate an obey eternal law does it become known as natural law. Natural law simply puts forth this principle: “good is to be done and evil is to be avoided”.

In addition, in one of Aquinas’ works, Summa Theologiae, he puts forth the argument “that all vengeance is unlawful”, but “vengeance belongs to God, for it is written (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19): "Revenge to Me, and I will repay”. However, he also writes that “But we are to look to God for vengeance on His enemies: for it is written (Luke 18:7): ‘Will not God revenge His elect who cry to Him day and night?’ as if to say: ‘He will indeed.’ Therefore vengeance is not essentially evil and unlawful.”

On another note, one of my favorite films, The Revenant is a story of revenge. The final lines of the film include a line that so strongly resonates with me and relates to this topic: “Revenge is in God's hands. Not mine”. This line is uttered at the moment the main character can kill the man who killed his son, after chasing him down for hundreds of miles in the middle of winter in the plains of the US. It all ties back strongly to St. Aquinas and how he reminds us that it is all God’s decision.