Vengeance and vindication: what is the difference?
When my first marriage ended for the final time, I was heavily judged by people close to me who misread the situation and saw me as the one at fault. After I emerged from the crisis-management stage, I had a sense that there was a deep, gut-wrenching cry in my belly. That cry sat in my belly for years. Sure I wept, but not the gut-wrenching cry, only lesser ones. I felt so angry and slighted by the secondary abuse from bystanders, that I couldn’t process the deep wound properly. It was like a log jam.
I don’t know how it happened, but this sense of a deep belly cry eventually disappeared. I think most of it dissipated when I had an insight into this passage in the Old Testament.
Deuteronomy 17:2-7 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant … and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.
On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
God’s Law said that when a capital crime was committed, and the report had been heard and assessed by the judges, and the criminal sentenced for execution by community stoning, the persons who reported the crime were to be the ones who cast the first stone. Somehow, lying in my bed one night, I had a revelation about this passage. I felt it was saying:
God understands your anger, your need for justice, your need for vindication. And vindication is not the same as vengeance. Vengeance is when you personally get back at your abuser. Vindication is when the community says to you, “Yes, this was a crime; you were horribly mistreated; we as a community agree that the offender must be punished.” God tells the community to let the victims cast the first stone (thereby validating the victims’ need to ventilate their anger). Then, everyone else picks up and throw stones to finish off the execution, thus confirming their vindication of the victims.
Now please don’t sidetrack this into a discussion of whether or not capital punishment should apply today; I don’t want to discuss the rights and wrongs of current statutes. But I am saying that I found it comforting that God understands the angry feelings of victims, and calls for justice to be delivered to perpetrators in such a way that the victims are fully vindicated.
Somehow, this insight decompressed and dissolved that unventilated cry in my belly.
P.S. I was inspired to write this post after reading a wonderful post by Lundy Bancroft about the healing power of crying, called A Powerful Key To Healing From Trauma. I highly recommend it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.