Living well is the best revenge.George Herbert, “Proverbs” in The Complete English Works, 272.
Several caveats are in order before this one yields helpful insight for Christians:
- Christianity does not commend personal vengeance in order to get justice. We are not a Church of vigilantes. Vengeance belongs to the Only wise God–the Judge of Heaven and Earth. By proxy “vengeance” also belongs to governing authorities to establish and maintain justice.
- Additionally, Christianity even warns against vengeful thinking–commanding rather that we pray for our enemies. Christ himself prayed “Father forgive them, for they know now what they do” as he was crucified. In praying for our enemies we are spared the toxic effects of bitterness; we become more aware of our own shortcomings and failures; and our souls expand as we are more acutely mindful of the grace and forgiveness that God has given us in Christ.
So, with these caveats in place, how can this saying be helpful?
- NOT as a plan of vengeance! You’re actually not living well if it comes from a “Watch, I’ll show them!” “Boy, won’t they be sorry!” attitude.
- The saying is best taken as a reminder that your life well-lived–especially over decades of time– is probably a more powerful argument to the truth of your worldview than anything else you could say or do. Yet, it’s so easy to discount in our own minds. So, in our frustration, we stoop to yelling and arguing–thinking we need to win the debates. There’s a place for debate–an important place. We must be able and willing to “give an answer for the hope that we have.” Yet, the persuasive power of your daily peace, joy, courage, generosity, gentleness, advocacy, and kindness represent a universal language that is deeply influential–even if your frenemies mock you for it initially. Stay the course.