On Revenge

I’d not really planned on reading it, but the bookstore I was in last weekend had a special price on the new Hillary Clinton book, “What Happened?” I’ve found it hard to put down. Clinton admits to numbers of mistakes during her presidential campaign, but she doesn’t stop there! She proceeds to settle scores with many people she considers impediments, including Vladimir Putin, Franklin Graham, Bernie Sanders, Fox News, Jim Comey and the Republican Party.

In contrast, I remember failed candidate Mitt Romney talking with Jay Leno on television. The only negative thing he said about the Obama administration was “I’m not a fan.”

But Mrs. Clinton uses her book to speak, and write, the last word!

Of course, hers isn’t the first memoir to settle scores. My generation remembers Don Regan who served as treasury secretary and White House chief of staff in the Reagan White House. He allegedly angered Nancy Reagan who urged her husband to dismiss him. In his memoirs, Regan wrote on page one about Nancy Reagan consulting an astrologer who controlled the president’s schedule! Later the astrologer, Joan Quigley, wrote her own book and tried to explain how she gave some assurance to Mrs. Reagan after the attempted assassination.

Most of us can’t write books to settle scores. Thus, we find other ways.

One way we seek revenge is to tell others about our injustices in order to garner support. If I can convince you my enemy is evil, then it makes me feel better to have reinforcements. Of course, we’re good at telling our own version of the particular offense, and in such a way as to make us seem virtuous.

Another way we seek revenge is to bide our time to say a negative word at an opportune time in someone’s life. I’ve known a few people who’ve taken job reference calls, for example, and used these to hurt someone’s opportunity for advancement because of some earlier slight against them or someone they love.

The phrase, “revenge is sweet,” goes back to Homer. But God’s word has a different exhortation: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12).

Gen. Robert E. Lee had it right. It was known that Gen. Joe Johnston disliked Lee. His officers were surprised when Lee said nice things about Johnston.

"General Lee," an officer said, "I guess you don’t know what he’s been saying about you."

"I know," answered Lee. "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me."