Revenge can masquerade as justice, but it frequently ends up perverting it.
EXCERPT: “Do not seek revenge and call it justice.” —Cassandra Clare
“It is essential that justice be done; it is equally vital that justice not be confused with revenge, for the two are wholly different.” ―Oscar Arias
1. Revenge is predominantly emotional; justice primarily rational.Revenge is mostly about “acting out” (typically through violence) markedly negative emotions. At its worst, it expresses a hot, overwhelming desire for bloodshed. As perverse as it may seem, there’s actual pleasureexperienced in causing others to suffer for the hurt they’ve caused the avenger, or self-perceived victim (cf. the less personal Schadenfreude).
Justice—as logically, legally, and ethically defined—isn’t really about “getting even” or experiencing a spiteful joy in retaliation. Instead, it’s about righting a wrong that most members of society (as opposed to simply the alleged victim) would agree is morally culpable. And the presumably unbiased (i.e., unemotional) moral rightness of such justice is based on cultural or community standards of fairness and equity. Whereas revenge has a certain selfish quality to it, “cool” justice is selfless in that it relies on non-self-interested, established law. At least obliquely, the two quotes below are suggestive:
“But men often mistake killing and revenge for justice. They seldom have the stomach for justice.” ―Robert Jordan
“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” —Pope John Paul II
2. Revenge is, by nature, personal; justice is impersonal, impartial, and both a social and legal phenomenon. The driving impetus behind revenge is to get even, to carry out a private vendetta, or to achieve what, subjectively, might be described as personal justice. If successful, the party perceiving itself as gravely injured (though others might not necessarily agree) experiences considerable gratification: their retaliatory goal has been achieved—the other side vanquished, or brought to its knees. Just or not, the avenger feels justified. Their quest for revenge has “re-empowered” them and, from their biased viewpoint, it’s something they’re fully entitled to.