Showing posts from October, 2023

Righteous Vengeance or Empathetic Pragmatism?

When we are attacked, it feels good to respond in kind. It defends us; it signals that we won't take such abuse passively; and it satisfies our desire for retribution. This is possibly, maybe a reasonable strategy when the attack is purely spontaneous—spontaneous in our attacker's eyes as well as our own—and no innocents are drawn into the conflict. An example would be a very young kid hitting a peer to see whether they can do something mischievous like stealing a toy. But many of the attacks we suffer, and which we think are unprovoked, actually have a long backstory and hence justification in the attacker's eyes. Examples range from marital spats to family feuds to political animus to international conflicts to terrorism. Many times what we perceive as an unjustified attack is a bubbling over of long-standing tensions and grievances. How, then, to respond to these attacks that seem justified to our aggressor? It depends on our ultimate goal. If we want to lash out because