4 thoughts on “Get Even”

  1. Right, because in practice that works really well.

    Among others, that quote has been attributed to Robert F. Kennedy, who also said, “[R]etaliation breeds retaliation… Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great. But we can perhaps remember, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life that they seek as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness….”

    “[Eleanor Roosevelt] got even in a way that was almost cruel. She forgave them.” –Ralph McGill

  2. Your strategy might be flawed in its assumption that the other party gives a damn about you. Sure, there are good people out there, but there are also lots of people out there that only stop to think about others long enough to determine how to get ahead at their expense. I’ve never been a fan of those who trample other people’s property, rights, and hard work, whether it’s through actual maliciousness or just plain carelessness and apathy.

    I do see what you’re saying, though, because in practice it’s often not easy to weed the good from the bad based on a single action, and the default should be to give someone a break. However, sometimes it’s obvious someone is a jerk. Take my neighbor for example. He routinely snowblows his sidewalk directly forward on to mine. I have no idea why, since it isn’t tough to change the angle of the chute, and I’ve asked him twice to stop. The last time he did it I shoveled it back to a pile in his driveway. Did he notice? Yes, he removed it, but we haven’t had enough snow yet to see if it makes a difference.

    On the other hand, there’s the guy down the street whose dog took a crap on my lawn last summer. I saw it happen, I saw him not pick it up, but the next day he stopped on his bike to retrieve it, not knowing I was in the back yard, and also unable to find it again (I’d already moved it to the compost pile). He’s the sort of fellow that makes it tough to make a snap judgment. Turns out he’s a really nice guy who just didn’t have a plastic bag.

    In the end I’m all for ending retaliation and living out my life in happiness with my brothers in humanity. I just choose to limit who I call “brother” to those who follow their words and rhetoric with considerate, positive, substantive action. And if someone can’t handle that, well, then they should expect to get what they give, at least from me.

  3. But if your neighbor doesn’t get the message in the first place, why waste the energy trying to send him one? It seems that a lot of people try to make a misplaced example out of everything instead of just getting on with life. If that cycle keeps going, where’s the opportunity to turn things around if someone actually wants to make amends? Does someone even get a chance?

  4. I’m not talking about misplaced examples. I hate those, too. Not everything is a lesson, not everything needs analysis. Sometimes “can you stop blowing your snow on my sidewalk?” is just a guy who doesn’t want extra snow on his sidewalk.

    I’m talking about well-placed examples, used when communication isn’t working.

    In my neighbor’s case perhaps he just wasn’t listening to what I was saying. Maybe I wasn’t saying it in a way that he got the message. Either way, when the message isn’t getting through you can send the message in a different format and see if it is properly received that way. Or you can give up, by either putting up with it, or removing yourself from the situation if it’s bad enough. The energy you waste is proportional to how much you really want the message to be received. It’s not a waste if they end up understanding.

    As for turning things around, that seems hard when even a simple message, delivered in multiple ways, can’t get through.

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