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Distinctions Between Justice and Revenge

Courtesy of Pabak Sarkar (Flickr CC0)

When it comes to revenge and justice, there seems to be a fine line between the two. Searching for an answer the distinctions may be vague. Topics of mind over matter come up in this conversation a lot. Depending on a person’s value their answer on whether there is a difference will differ. People who feel like there are clear distinctions usually argue that while both are similar justice comes from a place of caring and wanting to prevent a situation from happening again whereas revenge comes from a place of fear and wanting to be even. The argument on the opposing side is that there is no difference, explaining that both are a consequence of a morally “bad” action.

Distinctions aren’t absolute

In my opinion, perception makes the difference. I feel like people who believe in the law or a god — basically, anybody who believes there is something with authority over them will believe there is a distinction. In relation to those views, a person would believe that revenge is morally wrong. Furthermore, this type of person would place responsibility on someone else to give them justice. This differs from those who feel there is no distinction, they would feel responsible for their own justice.

While I do think there are distinctions between the two I don’t think it’s another person’s place to decide(me included). Since the main distinction presented is the intention I feel it’s impossible for another person to decide since their opinion will be subjective to another person. Secondly, another argument being presented is that if the punishment isn’t equal it crosses over to revenge. I agree but have to acknowledge this will also be subjective. Let’s compare it to a murderer on death row — some feel like they deserve to have their life taken since they took their lives. Contrary, others (including me) feel that it would be an easy way out for the inmate. My point is, the distinctions being presented aren’t absolute. There isn’t a definite way to tell if a consequence is actually equal to the action.

This also shows hypocrisy in the argument of their being different. Considering there is no way to be sure if punishment is equal, the only distinction is the responsibility aspect. If this is the only distinction you would have to also bring karma into the conversation. Karma is the philosophy that what you put out into the world is what you get back. Meaning there is good and bad karma.

final opinion on distinction

When karma comes into play I feel like it gives clarity to the two perspectives and the distinction. For a person who thinks revenge and justice make a difference, they would put the fate of their situation on another person. They would give the responsibility of punishment to a person who would have more authority than them. Saying they don’t want to be involved in the process of punishing the person, it’s not their place essentially. They just want the satisfaction of knowing something “bad” got done to them and the person who did it got something bad in return — karma. They don’t want to take part in giving punishment though, as this would mean they’re adding themselves to this cycle — the karma cycle.

This makes the distinction between the two perspectives clear. This differs from the view there is no difference because this person would look at “revenge” as being in charge of their own justice. If they take action to punish someone who did them wrong they would be inserting themselves in this bad cycle. They would most likely be very aware of this. They most likely wouldn’t care. This means they wouldn’t be afraid of karma or outside forces, only their justice.

While both revenge and justice provide closure I feel there is no real difference between the two — only who you present it to. One type of person would find a difference, one wouldn’t. The difference? Their view on karma.

By Cynthia Thomas

NPR: Op-Ed: The Nonexistent Line Between Justice And Revenge

Aleteia: How to tell if you’re crossing the line from justice into vengeance

Quora: What is the difference between justice and revenge?

Top and Featured Image courtesy of Pabak Sarkar‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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