How to keep someone who’s been hurt from enacting vengeance

Graciano_Durai asks: I have a friend from school. He’s from three Middle Eastern Countries and one Central African Country. He’s from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and his farther grandmother comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He wishes he could go back to the Middle East. Even with all the terror, He still prefers The Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He hates one thing the most out of all things: America. He’s hated America ever since he was five, after an American bomber plane killed a friend of his and his whole family, along with his dog. Ever since then, I’m afraid he’s just going to just blow up; because he’s a ticking time bomb, he is waiting for the perfect moment to release his anger and hatred. What exactly can I do to keep him from both bottling his anger and not to release his anger all at once?

Hi Graciano_Durai –


I would love to start my answer by saying that we dogs never act out of vengeance, that we’re above that sort of thing. But the truth is, we’re not. One day Handsome and I were visiting his brother’s home, and I saw his parents’ dog Buster, through a window, eating my food out of my bowl. Over twelve hours later, I was able to meet up with Buster, and dove onto her to beat her up and let her know that was unacceptable behavior! I didn’t want to injure her at all, or certainly to kill her. I just wanted to show her who was boss. But it means I can relate to your friend, if only a little.


I can’t blame your friend one bit for his anger or his hurt. War simply stinks, even if it’s got some moral justification (such as if someone’s fighting to protect themselves or their home), and too often it doesn’t even have that. I live in the United States, and I like a lot of the values our country has, but that doesn’t mean that we’re always in the right in all we do. Of course I don’t know the details of what happened to your friend’s family, friend, and dog, but I am more than willing to admit that it might have happened by mistake, or even by a completely wrong, malicious act.


It would be silly and insensitive of me to suggest that your friend should forgive those responsible for what happened to his family. I couldn’t even blame him if he held it against all Americans forever (even though hardly any of the 300 million people, and about 70 million dogs, in this country, had anything to do with what was done to them). For example, I know some people who lived through World War II, and to this day will not consider buying a German or Japanese car, even though the governments of those countries are so far removed from those who were fighting us back then. And I can’t talk them out of it – so how could I possibly try to talk your friend out of his anger over a conflict that’s still going on?!


I will say two things, however. Maybe he’d be up to hearing them, and maybe not – I can’t control that.


The first is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Maybe the bombing that killed his family was in retaliation for an attack on Americans. Well, just as he considers that an unfair attack, so would a revenge-hit back at America be unfair as well. And it certainly would not do anything to make the world a better or more peaceful place. It would be far more useful for him to become a diplomat or writer, and teach people around the world – ideally, eventually, even Americans – about the pain that this bombing caused (and other bombings still cause), and how peace will be the only solution that can work.


The second is that he will continue to live in frustration and pain as long as his hatred burns in his soul. Again, it’s useless to tell someone who’s experienced such horror and pain that he should forgive those who did this to him, but if he finds a way to move past this fury someday, his life will get better.


In the meantime, you’re asking what you can do. I think there are only two things possible. The first is to keep an eye on him, and try to stop him if you see him leaning toward doing something truly dangerous. Friends don’t let friends murder people, blow up planes, etc! Terrorism has proven, over the years, to accomplish pretty much nothing except to further hatred (after all, how did he react when his family was hurt?). And random acts of cruelty accomplish even less. Don’t let your friend go to jail (or worse) for a senseless act of vengeance. Much better to help him find other outlets.


My second suggestion is to be a great model to him. Show him ways that you deal with the wrongs done to you. And talk with him openly about America. If he wants to talk about how much he hates aspects of this country and its culture, hear him out. Maybe you’ll agree with him on some of the counts (After all, nearly all Americans do – you should hear the way our radio personalities talk about the President on a daily basis, for example! I heard more politeness in the pound!). But you can also, as you’re hearing his rage, maybe temper down some of his more outrageous comments. “Yeah, I hear you – those drone attacks on civilians are absolutely unconscionable. I wonder how we could get the American news media to talk more about the damage they cause. Maybe we could make a documentary about them, and enter it into American film festivals, so they could see what their taxes are paying to do!”

What I’m really saying, Graciano_Durai, is that your friend’s feelings are not wrong. He will never ever get over the pain of that terrible loss. Sadly, an enormous portion of the human race have experienced losses just that insane. From those massacred in the Middle East (on all sides in so many conflicts) to victims of wars in every continent, to… yes… even Americans.

It sometimes astounds me that humans, with all their anger and their technological brilliance, have not yet managed to annihilate all of humanity from the planet. The only reason they haven’t has been a fundamental hope, an optimism, that things can get better. This belief shows up in amazing ways – like with the formation of the United Nations, or every couple of years with the Olympics. Your friend can choose to be on the side of vengeance, or on the side of making this world a better place. If he chooses the latter, he will find opposition among those who agree with his politics, and with those he despises, who also wish for war.  But I, and others who think as I do, will honor him forever.

Every person gets to choose how they want to live. And, because of the horrible, incomprehensible thing that happened to your friend, he has to make that choice.

You can help, but in the end, it’s up to him.


I wish you all the luck in the world. Thanks for reaching out to me. I’ll help in any way I can.


You’re a good soul,




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