When you vote this fall, what is your motivation? If we trust the tone of traffic on social media, many Americans want to punish the Trump administration. We want to retaliate, to inflict pain on those who have caused us pain. Sweet revenge.
In 2015, Kate Murphy examined this human response in a New York Times analysis. Among her points, she wrote, “Vengeful acts were what kept our prehistoric ancestors alive. Back then, letting a slap go unpunished marked you as prey. Uncooperative behavior also threatened the survival of the group, which may be why today bystanders feel uncomfortable, if not outraged, when they see injustice and take great satisfaction when offenders get their due.”
“Take great satisfaction when offenders get their due.” Is this what we’re doing with our vote?
Scholarly researchers have found that certain personality traits predict a tendency toward vindictiveness in the extreme. These include narcissism, low self-esteem, pessimism, and callousness. Sound like anyone you know?
Many of us have responded to the Trump years with frustration, feelings of betrayal, anxiety that gives way to alarm, rising to outrage and a powerful urge to retaliate, to enact revenge.
Deuteronomy 32:35 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible tells us: “Vengeance is mine, and recompense; for the time when their foot shall slip; because the day of their calamity is at hand, their doom comes swiftly.”
In the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written,‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Instead of revenge, our vote could be our statement that insists that our nation move in a more positive direction — ethical, compassionate, corruption-free, honest, one that respects and cares about Americans. That’s us.
Joe Biden has adopted the phrase “Build back better” to identify his plan for restoring the economy. That appeals to me. Leave the revenge to God. We can build our country back, and we would do it better.
I would vote for that.