One night after a hockey game our goalie asked “Does anyone have a bat I can borrow?” We joked with him a little, wondering the purpose of his request. The unified laughter and conversation subsided and we broke into multiple conversations in the room.
The focus was brought back when we found out that our goalie, his brother and a friend had been attacked by a group of guys in a park. The teens attacked with a knife, a hammer and their own fists. Our goalie took a hammer hit to his abdomen. A group of teens were bullying his brother.
He explained that he was seeking revenge. He couldn’t wait around for the cops to deal with them and he wanted to stand up for his brother. He knew where the lead guy lived and wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine. The bat would be his enforcement.
We were all shocked. Some guys immediately said they would be willing to help him, others told him not to retaliate.
It made me think. Why do we want to retaliate? Obviously our goalie felt he had been so wronged that he was willing to risk limb and life to bring retribution- “put them in their place.” He felt justified in taking the matter into his own hands.
I observe an intense obsession for retaliation in our culture. We feel justified to get back at someone who we feel has wronged us. If someone cuts us off in traffic we feel justified in giving various gestures to show our anger. Why? It makes us feel good when we make the person who hurt us pay and feel what we feel back. We feel good when someone who causes suffering is brought to account.
Perhaps our obsession with retaliation is rooted deep in our beliefs about right and wrong. When we are violated, we more readily admit and distinguish between right and wrong. It reveals that we care a lot about justice. We may even tend to demonize those who have wronged us and think of ourselves as morally superior. Perhaps our beliefs of right and wrong comes out most in our retaliation, showing we are not as indifferent as we may have thought.
But while we crave justice in retaliation, is it right for us to take justice in our own hands?