It can be hard to tell whether we are feeling hatred or whether we are simply feeling anger. Living within the abuse and fog, we suppress a lot of our anger. As we come out of the fog and we realise how abominably and underhandedly we were treated, anger naturally comes to the surface. Anger can help us set boundaries and develop thicker skins for when we have to deal with all the people who “don’t get it” in our lives.
I guess most Christian survivors go through times when they wonder “Am I wanting vengeance? Or am I simply feeling righteous indignation about the injustice with which I’ve been treated?” I don’t know a neat formula for distinguishing between them, but I suppose if we find ourselves dwelling on how we might exact vengeance, we’d better rein ourselves pretty fast!
In my experience, having the occasional flight of fancy of vengeance does not signify serious sin on my part. It’s like black humour, it’s a way to survive. You have to laugh or else you’d cry. And the day I heard that an expensive tool had been stolen from my ex’s car and I felt a burst of Schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others), my follow-up emotion was chagrin at my fleshly thought, along with gratitude to God for apparently delivering a small measure of justice to my ex for the ways he had ravaged my life.
To imagine taking vengeance on your abuser can be a way of letting some of the steam off the pressure cooker, so long as you know it is only an imaginary exercise. When I had the occasional thought of vengeance towards my first husband, I didn’t berate myself heavily. But if I had started dwelling on those thoughts in earnest and nursing the feeling of hatred with intent to make the abuser suffer, I would have needed to confess, hand it up to God, and disengage. Our King of Righteousness can and will take vengeance on the ungodly, and He’ll do it better than I ever could, with perfect justice — shaped and tailored to each individual — unless their sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.
Here are links to some old posts we’ve done that relate to this topic, in case you haven’t read them before.
[June 27, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to June 27, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 27, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 27, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 27, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Abuse Victims Must Take Care Lest They Become Abusive
Vengeance and vindication: what is the difference?
Bitterness or Righteous Anger — How to tell the difference
36 thoughts on “Anger, hatred, vengeance: – am I feeling them? are my feelings wrong?”
The last time I heard that term it was being leveled at (another) blog that was rejoicing over the SGM court case. It’s a sad mistake to think that being happy for justice being done in the name of the oppressed is somethow rejoicing in the misfortune of the opressor (especially since the only “misfortune” is that the churche’s sins are finally being addressed in court).
There are a lot of Christians out there who will say we shouldn’t be interested in justice, that we should only seek to give grace as we’ve been given grace. This doesn’t square with the Bible, however, which calls us to do justice over and over again. Vengance is another story.
It is right to delight when the oppressed are given justice and their opression is being addressed, whether it is by the church, the state, or whoever.
I don’t know that schadenfreude is in and of itself a wrong – I think that it is natural to feel some rejoicing when you see an injustice met with that person’s downfall or misfortune, and you know that some measure of justice has been dealt in that, however ‘arbitrary’, I think that there can be a right(eous) kind of delight in knowing that Someone is on your side and justice, of any kind, should be a reason for thanks and joy, and – I don’t know, it’s a blended feeling I think, and I don’t think that you should feel guilty for feeling joy in being vindicated, however indirectly. You know that God’s hand is in it, even if it’s not apparent to the world.
Perhaps I am not familiar enough with the word in it’s native environment, and I am misunderstanding a bit – as a linguist German is one of the very few languages in the world that I dislike, so I have not studied it much. :’) But I have seen it used often in an English-speaking community that I frequent to just mean – a fierce sense of gladness at some justice being done when someone thought they were getting away with something, and they were so very very wrong.
“Vengeance is mine!” Says the Lord. “I will repay!” was the verse that sustained me for the first three months after I left and was coming out of the fog. I knew that God would take care of the injustice and that I could trust Him to make it right. I had several people tell me that my attitude was wrong and I should ask for the Lord to forgive not to seek his vengeance. This article helped me see that I was seeking justice and was not in sin. Thank you 🙂
I think you were right on – also, you have a lovely name!
Thank you Kagi ❤
One MAJOR thing this blog has taught me through the many people here…is that longing for justice, is NOT vengeance! How wrong it is in the context for victoms who suffer oppresison by an evil person to be told to carry the burden of changing a degenerte being. I long for Justice, so much I feel despair. But somehwere in that longing is the hope that comes from KNOWING our God is just, and HE alone is going to set things right.
On a lighter note, I prayed for better spelling but that has not transpired yet. Im willing to let that slide if He does not answer that right away 🙂
As a linguist and a naturally near perfect speller – I never use spell check, I hate them because they annoy me with their stupid underlining things XD – I find your bad spelling adorable. I have a sister with much the same problems with it as you, she is very smart and well-read but has terrible spelling and has to check it constantly, and I love her very much. Don’t let it worry you – your passion and heart and the truth of what you are saying shines through!
I was going to say that “longing for Justice is not vengful?” but I could not spell it so I copied the spelling for “Vengeance” from Bethany!! lol
This helps me, Barb. I often imagine everything being laid out at the end of time. All that truth right there for everyone to see — especially those who insisted I wasn’t being honest. I take comfort in imagining that. Is that weird? I imagine God placing His hand on my head — like in a blessing — and somehow, restoring my dignity . . . defending me . . . telling everyone that I am His child. That imagery helps me a lot.
Meg, I don’t think your imagination is weird.
Not all victims of abuse and persecution have been physically killed by their abusers; but all of them have been hated and insulted without cause, and Jesus taught that unjust anger and insults are akin to murder (Matt. 5:21-22).
Thank you, Barb. That just filled up my heart with precious thoughts of justice to come. Beautiful.
Oh, that helps me so much! Thanks for sharing that – I have an ex who was a pathological liar, and fortunately I was only in that relationship for about six months, and it was long distance mostly so there was nothing physical going on, but….it very nearly destroyed me mentally and emotionally, on top of the damage from my father, and my best friend was in actual physical danger due to being their roommate at the time. I have had more resentment on her behalf than mine almost, I guess. I have really struggled with some feelings over that – being the one person in the world I really truly hated, and almost actually wished for to go to hell. Or even did. I’ve had to struggle with that and some of it has just been….time, distance from the events and perspective, and being able to let go of how stupid I felt I had been to fall prey to someone like that.
But you are right, to imagine the truth being told at the end of days by Truth himself, and no one believing any more of those lies, that helps a great deal. 🙂
It’s funny the only time I ever fantasized about bad things happening to my husband was when we were married. I constantly fantasized about him getting in a car wreck because I felt the only way I would ever be free from that hell was if I was widowed.
Now that I’m free (and my ex seems to have prospered – he took off with his new wife and left the children to me) – I don’t harbor feelings of hatred or vengeance. Disgust? yup. Fear? yup – when I have to deal with him still.
But all that fantasizing over bad things happening to him? gone. I think it’s because my heart was never on vengeance. It was always just longing to be free from abuse.
I know this feeling. I’ve had some similar thoughts when I was stuck back at my parents house and sucked back into depression, desperate to get away but not seeing anyway for that to happen unless….something happened to him. Just a longing for freedom.
The closing scene of Les Miserables reminds me of the saints in heaven calling upon the Lord for righteous justice. And I like it a lot.
Yes!! And all the evil that tried to destroy them on the earth, is not there with them anymore!!! Did you see that!?!? I think I saw you standing there on that ship – and all the others were there too! It was as if their suffering, was for the Kingdom and the endured it, because they could see the end – the blessed end, with our Savior at last!
I once read something Dan Allender wrote about vengeance: if vengeance is wrong, why would God say, “Vengeance is mine”? Why would God claim anything that is evil and wrong? Obviously then, it is not wrong to have vengeance, it is only wrong to to take vengeance into our own hands when it is ultimately best served by God.
I think the confusion comes with the false guilt that is levelled at us by well-meaning Christian friends, not to mention the abuser himself, who desperately wants to blame us for something, and what better sin to attribute to us than bitterness/revenge?
Thanks, Barbara for the links to the old posts. I really need to review them from time to time, just to make sure that I am not shortchanging my spiritual life by indulging in the forbidden areas of unrighteous anger, but more so, that I am not swallowing his story that I have turned into an angry, malicious, vengeful man-hating creature (who should have less of a place in church than an abuse perpetrator).
I know I’ve had some bitterness in the past, but I’ve definitely had that charge leveled at me and felt guilt over it when looking back, I think it was only my sense of injustice saying ‘this is wrong and it has not been set right, and that is further wrong’.
And thinking of a broken bone being set wrong. It has to be re-broken and re-set. When justice is miscarried or delayed and the bone ( or what ever part of us gets healed when justice is done) regrows the wrong way, it ‘s painful and difficult to fix it. Why we probably need to check our heart often as we leave an abusive situation.
Thanks for that analogy. It’s a good one.
The Jaws theme came to mind. . . Watch out! The shark net is broken and an angry, malicious, vengeful, man-hating creature from the deep is coming swiftly, ravenous to sink its long teeth into us as we paddle round in our Christian pool!
I think God created us to desire justice. We always cheer in TV shows and films when justice is served. When vengeance is poured on the antagonist, especially if they have beaten down someone weaker than themselves. It is part of us to seek justice.
And adding one small win. I celebrate Passover. Love it and God has put it on my heart years ago and so I would celebrate it casually with my kids and then when he moved out I did it more formally with my kids. So last year it landed on a Friday which was one of the visitation days. He adamantly refused to even let the child come 1 hour late to visitation so my one son couldn’t join us. Sad, but this is just life. I moved on. This year my oldest Bible study wanted to participate so we had to make on the normal day for Bible study and all my kids wanted to come and came, even the one living with him. So that was last night. Guess what I realized yesterday..it was my ex’s birthday…no one there to celebrate his birthday. I didn’t plan it, didn’t do it vindictively but little happy smile that he got paid back for his nasty behavior.
I would love to hear more about this – my dad got into this idea that holidays are based on pagan celebrations and therefore evil, so growing up we did not ever celebrate anything. Not Christmas, not Easter, definitely not Halloween, but not anything, even the ones that others at church were enjoying.
So I don’t have any memories or nostalgia to build on in trying to find times of the year to celebrate today, but Passover is one that God has put on my heart in the past, possibly just because I AM an oldest child, I don’t know – I have always had also a real heart for the Jewish people and to learn more about their way of life, but I don’t want to appropriate anyone else’s holidays without clear reasoning either, as to why I am celebrating…..I don’t know, it’s one of the things that has been far down on my list of things to sort through, so I haven’t got to it yet, but I would be very encouraged to hear more from you about this. 🙂
I’m a middle-aged daughter of a socio/psycho father, and also a witness to the vicious abuse my mother endured all the while we were growing up. The Lord gave her the courage to escape & divorce him after many years of marriage. She still says to this day that it was a miracle she was able to get him out of the house.
For all those here who feel that the sins of the abuser are covered up and hidden …that the abuser continues to enjoy a good reputation…that no-one will ever know or believe the sadistic cruelties that were done in secret…I have a favorite verse for that, from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus’ words were spoken regarding the Pharisees – a group of haters, schemers, slanderers and secretly violent men who wanted with all their hearts to destroy Jesus. Yet, they had sterling reputations in the community, were respected and honored.
But Jesus says about them (Luke 12:2-5):
I have always felt very comforted by the one from Proverbs, too, ‘Be sure your sin shall always find you out.’ Which was used in the past to make us afraid and guilty over the smallest of often imagined offenses, so it took me some time to reclaim it, but I believe that any great sin will eventually come to light.
I don’t know how comfortable anyone here is with using this word, but I think that ‘karma’ of some kind is actually one of God’s principles – your actions, words and behaviour, even in private, have consequences, and they will eventually come back on your head, God will have his justice.
Kagi, since this blog is written for and by Christians, we don’t go along with the concept of karma because that comes from Hindu religion and has strong associations with reincarnation. The Bible teaches that reincarnation does not occur:
Rather than karma, the Bible teaches sowing and reaping:
Yes, that’s what I meant, sorry – that’s why I said that you wouldn’t call it that, and I don’t know a whole lot about the religion the word came from so I don’t even know if the way it gets used a lot in our culture (America) is anything correct, but I can’t always think of the right words anymore, and I’ve got a lot of random words sort of ‘reassigned’ in my head as I’m sorting things out.
I just meant that I knew I recognised the principle that I was thinking about in the Bible, and that was the first word that came to me as I was trying to think how to express it, sorry. Thanks for clarifying for everyone else.
no need to apologise, Kagi. 🙂 I’m happy to explain.
The word karma is so frequently used in the Western world now, that many people don’t even realise where it came from.
I happen to know a fair bit about it because before I became a Christian I was into the New Age for a few years and learned a lot about eastern religions.
I had a few years where I truly, honestly wished I could convert to Wicca, but I knew that if I did I would be lying to myself, because I knew that there was truth in the Bible and God himself had been revealed to me in too many ways to just discard everything I was raised in as faith.
Since then I’ve done some research and reading about different religions just because I want to be informed and know what other people actually believe, but I haven’t done as much as I’d like. I have, however, noticed that a lot of them have similar principles that work out in different ways and I have to wonder if that is part of the fact that we have born into us the knowledge of right from wrong, and it may not be as detailed as what’s in the Bible, but there’s a lot of general dynamics that we all recognise and understand in all kinds of religions.
I grew up with the teaching implied that we should never listen to anyone who believes different or learning anything about their beliefs because it was seen as some kind of a threat to our own, which….it shouldn’t be. If what we believe is true, then learning what other people believe will help us understand them, but it shouldn’t shake our own beliefs. At least, I don’t think so.
I agree that learning about other people’s beliefs need not shake our own beliefs, and it might make us better able to communicate with and potentially evangelise them.
I’m glad you rejected Wicca. It is a dangerous belief system, as are all beliefs systems apart from the Christian faith.
The Devil is not a creator he is a counterfeiter. All false religions have elements that are similar to parts of Christianity, but no religion other than Christianity has the full real truth, the truth that leads to salvation and eternal life. False religions always mix truth with lies. False religions and belief systems can appear quite similar to Christianity — discerning that they are not the live-giving true religion can be quite difficult unless you have studied deeply and have the Holy Spirit guiding you and showing you the truth. Knowing the Bible really well and knowing Christian doctrine well is very helpful to sort out the truth from the counterfeit.
The Apostle Paul often taught doctrines both negatively and positively: “This is what this truth IS, and this is what it is NOT.” Learning about what false religions believe can be part of learning what Christian doctrine is not.
Song of Joy . . . Thank you for this. It was timely for me. This post opened up different parts of my heart this week and I felt angry . . . AGAIN. I needed those verses.
In my opinion, there are situations, that call for justice and not necessarily mercy. Not trying to sound like i`m anything great, but I think I was mostly `merciful` to the abuser and gave him chance after chance. Justice needed to step in and take over. Because with justice come consequences- good or bad.
I long for justice since I do not get fair treatment in court. My ex is a sociopathic liar, and has the biased judge on his side, believing his lies. I make Psalm 94 my prayer daily and need God to fight for me against the unjust judge and the degenerate deceiver who continues to make my life difficult. When I sit in the courtroom, I’m bullied by the judge and belittled by the ex and walk out after the proceedings feeling no justice was done. I’m having trouble understanding why God doesn’t intervene.
Well in response to Psalm 37, I understand the socio-pathological liar part, and sadly I can so relate to the mistreatment of the courts and all its players…..What is something a judge most likely experiences EVERY single day, just like Pastors in the church….they refuse to connect the dots. I suppose too if bonified abuse education was present to these judges, they would recognize their job security was in danger, as the church who does not want to shake up their numbers. We seem to have small justice in civil courts, but for the past, history or obvious manipulative behaviours of an abuser are simply ignored when it comes to trying to divorce them. If it helps at all, I can truly relate. Its devastating, worse than a two by four to the temple. As women of abusive spouses we are left with no resource for a normal negotiation, because the word negotiate is NOT in an abusers vocabulary or mindset, and the court systems suck all the resources up gladly, in the mind of the abuser its “Who ever has the most control wins! The one who does not get stripped of resources WINS” I too prayed at every turn, EVERY corner I ask for a miracle, and intervention of some sort? I just have to keep telling myself that TEN years of prayers, and pleas, matter to God, and HE is building me up and will end it all in our favour at the last minute! I kept a long journal of all the verses God spoke to me over the last ten years, I had to start writing down the small prayers that came about, I literally had to write out my tears, or the weight would crush me up then swallow my tiny pieces. Its so so hard to understand why injustice seems to prevail everywhere around us? Maybe God needs to build us up into warriors? People who suffer injustice, and REALLY get it are the only ones who can effect change? I dont know, I am not full of much godly wisdom, in fact sometime I feel less than zero, and most days I just have to remind myself to breath in, then breath out. I think the hope will not dissapoint any of us, and the reality, the end result will be worth a standing “O” I know God hears the crys of the oppressed, and if that is not true then nothing else is true. But I can totally relate to the queston, “If He hears, then where is He?” and why does HE let this go on? Not a brilliant response, but its honest.
well in my humble opinion, Memphis, it IS a brilliant response and way better than I could have given. Thank you.