Opinion: Righteous vengeance


Are we victims? Are they? As definitions and understanding of what it means to be wronged become more fluid, we struggle to process. What is right? Whose rights matter most? Who should we believe? What do we know to be true, and how do we survive?

First, victims should carry no shame. Certainly, anger, fear and loathing are byproducts of being victimized. Likely, those feelings are unavoidable and entirely justifiable. Yet, 17th century mathematician Johannes Kepler is quoted as saying: “Temporis filia veritas, cui me obstetricari non pudet (Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife).” In it, he argues that we cannot hope to be truth but should instead create a place where it can be delivered. Often persecuted for pushing the veracity in science at a time where such actions were punishable by death, certainly by ridicule, he found that one cannot force the acceptance of truth but rather know that if it is allowed to be delivered, in its own time, it will come forth. 

Second, life is an infinitely complex and multivariate equation. It is our own folly to imagine that we have control over anything or anyone – perhaps, as some argue, even over ourselves. We cannot predict or direct their actions any more than we can extract justice from those who we believe to have transgressed. Romans 12:19 reads, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Is this Scripture less about God’s reservation of vengeance and more his understanding that a desire for retribution consumes the one who pursues it as much or more than it punishes its object? In casting off wrongful shame, is there a limit to righteous vengeance?