He Who Seeks Revenge Digs Two Graves
When I was a kid growing up in Boissevain, Manitoba, my mother would occasionally send me to the bakery to get bread. I was about 5 at the time but able to read.
The baker had various slogans on the wall behind him. I’ll never forget one of them, and from an early age I made it a maxim that I would live by. (It seems that the only times I remember breaking it were against my brother.)
The maxim was, “He who seeks revenge digs two graves.” He attributed it to Confucius.
At age 5, I understood.
I thought of that when reading Don Boudreaux’s latest article for the American Institute for Economic Research. It’s titled “No COVID Tribunals.” I recommend reading the whole thing.
Notice that Don is not saying we should do nothing to hold people to account. He writes:
Nor do I oppose formal hearings that aim to expose the truth about the COVID-era actions of government officials. While I worry that such hearings will, like COVID policies themselves, be infected with excessive politics and misunderstanding of science, as long as such hearings threaten no formal punishments or sanctions on officials found to have acted wrongly, the likelihood that such hearings will unearth and publicize important truths is high enough to warrant their occurrence.
I think that’s right.
By the way, as a result of choosing early in life not to be a vengeful person, I think I’m also a happier person. There are multiple ways to dig my own grave. There’s the literal way, of course. But another way is to obsess: “I’m going to get that so and so.” And that takes away from enjoying life and achieving.
Between 1978 and 1983, I went to 4 weekend long intensives given by the late psychologist Nathaniel Branden. I learned a lot. I probably learned the most from the first one, in Manhattan in early 1978. A lot of what we were dealing with was the ways we had been shaped, or misshaped, by our parents and teachers. Somehow in the discussion, the issue of “getting back at” parents or teachers or whoever came up. Branden said that there’s a Spanish saying that translates, “Living well is the best revenge.” That became part of my philosophy of life also. In fact, I used that in a graduation talk I gave in 1981 at the Carman high school from which I had graduated in 1967.