Screenshot 2021 02 06 at 08 04Writing the first part of this a couple of days ago was very therapeutic, I got a lot of anger out of the system and slept well in consequence.  And in response to those who have asked, no I won’t name names or give any more clues.  The post certainly attracted attention in social media so it would appear that sin and vengeance are good popular themes!

Today I want to move on to the vengeance question and that necessarily involves the idea of repentance and contrition.  So today’s matrix is designed to overlay the earlier one.  To explain the dimensions, on the vertical axis I have identified a key difference between pro-actively seeking revenge and simply reacting, take the opportunity as it presents itself.  On the horizontal axis I have contrasted a brutal and direct approach, with one with is either ironic or satiric in nature but altogether more laid back

Before we go any further, I will repeat what I said in the first post that this is all a bit of fun and designed to be taken with a pinch of salt, but there is also some serious intent or value that may emerge in the future.

The two other concepts I have introduced here are repentance and contrition, or to be more specific, acts of contrition that necessarily incorporated ideas of penance.   Repentance generally means an understanding of having done the wrong thing and, critically, a willingness to do something which indicates a clear intent and purpose to do better next time.  Just to be sorry is not enough and if you start to proffer excuses then you are not demonstrating repentance.   Acts of contrition go a stage further and require you to do something now that demonstrates your knowledge of failure and provides some recompense for that.  This goes beyond being sorry into making amends; weregild or blood money is of course one way but there are others.

So that gives us our four matching options as follows:

  1. The Monte Cristo Scenario a response to Commission/Intentional
    Here there is no alternative but to fight fire with fire.  As they organised to destroy you, so you have to organise and plan full-scale revenge as did the Count of Monte Cristo.  A cunning plan (couldn’t resist that) to wreak havoc and mayhem on the offender.  You may have to decide if you are happy to go down with your victim here and you should always remember that even the remorseless Dantès showed some mercy.  You do this not just for yourself but for the sake of others and you may have to use their own weapons against them.
  2. Repentance and contrition a response to Commission/Accidental
    Here someone has done wrong, they may have fallen into it but having done so they have dug themselves in deeper.  This is not a matter of neglect, it is a decision to continue knowing that they are in the wrong, or finding ways to convince themselves that they are justified.  They may even get entrapped – one of the cases I had in mind was linked to the first type, part of the plan.  Whatever, for any forgiveness to take place it’s not really enough to just  say sorry and hope that everything can just go back to normal, there has to be some act of contrition, which of course can be an act of partial restoration
  3. Transparency a response to Omission/Intentional
    This is more subtle and storytelling can come into play.  The Brutus is an honourable man line from Anthony is a good approach here.  If you are not the victim but have power then you can do something.  I’ve told IBM stories about abuse within IBM to shame the perpetrators, knowing I had top cover and count be touched.  Ironic humour with a deadpan delivery is a brilliant way to do this.  You weave a narrative that makes people aware of the sin, its nature, and also the sinner.  Holding a light up to the behaviour is something that really has to be done by a third party and if that is you take up the burden, or you are placing yourself on the Cowards die many times before their death category of the top right of my earlier matrix.  If you stand aside when someone is being attacked unfairly, then you are guilty.
  4. Await repentance a response to Omission/Accidental
    Writing things off to experience is probably the best response here, the odd ironic comment on social media or at an event can be satisfying and does no harm to you but may have an impact.  My general view here is that you have to wait for the Cowardly Lion to discover some courage and own up to the issue without excuses and offer some indication that the behaviour will not repeat.  Making the behaviour transparent is generally self-indulgent and simply brings attention to something best forgotten.

Now one thing you may have noticed here, taking revenge is only suggested in one of the boxes and then the main motivation is defensive, I think Dantès was taking things too far, and part of the novel is that he realises that for himself towards the end.  I drew a slightly arbitrary red line on the matrix and generally anything to the left and down needs a response, anything to the right may be best ignored.

One thing I have over the years is not to let a breach of trust or even multiple breaches stop you from trusting others; better to be betrayed a few times than close in on yourself.

Now all of this, which started off as stress relief with the intention of being an amusing sideline between more serious posts, has turned out to be more serious than I thought.  It has reminded me of the way in which institutions can be manipulated by the unscrupulous and also the wider issues of the abuse of power, also how you deal with the abuse of others if you are also in a position of power.  That, in turn, resulted in my making notes on questions of sacrifice last night and hunting down some of the papers I have (and wrote) on Dietrich Bonhoeffer back in the 1970s (and no you can’t see them as I am embarrassed by them) when I was spending a not insignificant part of my time crossing the wall in Berlin.  So expect some more serious posts on this whole issue of abuse, power, sacrifice, and hope in society and in organisations downstream.


View of the Château d’If  is cropped from an original by  Marian78ro – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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