Why Are Some Human Beings So Vindictive?

Are you vindictive?

You must have heard the infamous refrain ‘an eye for an eye’ or the age-old dictum ‘Tit for Tat’…Revenge has always seemed sweet to most of the people since times immemorial.

Psychologists and researchers believe that human behavior is determined by the genes and the kind of environment we live in. While the role of Nature and Nurture has always been accepted, even the best of upbringing and education couldn’t exterminate the innate vindictiveness of human beings.

It can be discerned in the innocent squabbling of toddlers; it gets sharpened when they grow up to face the competitive world of sports and schooling and slowly it becomes a part of their personality.

Probably the real reason is rooted in the evolution of human race, which had to struggle to survive against all odds and challenging circumstances. In modern times, when people are blessed with all kinds of materialistic and spiritual choices, revenge refuses to slacken its hold on human psyche.

Why? What could be the possible reasons?

Revenge is triggered not just by deceit, infidelity or injustice.

There are very insignificant reasons, which may not seem as trivial as you could presume.

Negative thoughts: Vengefulness could be a reaction to their own negative thoughts, which make people insecure and jealous. Family bickering and rivalries are the best example of such insecurities. When one member of a family becomes successful or is seen to be happy, others step in with their malicious thoughts of creating rifts to grind their own axe and exploit emotions.

Ruining relationships: Jealous people want all the attention, they want to prove they are the most loving and caring and if they find a challenger, they make a surreptitious attempt to alienate your siblings or other relatives by backbiting; by creating such situations which could prove you to be a villain.

It gives momentary pleasure: Revenge seeker has his own reasons, his frustrations and failures for which he holds others around him responsible. Seeing them suffer could give him pleasure. It might even boost his bruised ego. His helplessness in reacting directly could be camouflaged in the façade of goodness. Revenge hurts you also

It assuages anger: Anger, the most illogical and unbridled emotion gets mitigated by revenge. Hurting others and meting out the most unreasonable treatment through their jibes, punitive actions or passive aggression gratifies such avengers.

It proves one’s power: Vindictive people consider themselves to be more powerful. Sometimes they are influential due to the positions they hold. They could be your bosses or colleagues. A disappointed colleague who was eyeing the promotion you got or the boss who has been given a negative feedback may rob you of your peace of mind. Those who want to let you down would derive sadistic pleasure out of such situations.

Insecurities: “Living well is the best revenge,” said George Herbert but vindictive people don’t let you live well! Your living well exposes their own imperfections to them, making them insecure in their heart of hearts.

Have you heard of nemesis? It is the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall. An agent of natural justice… some people call it “Karma” and believe that whatever goes, comes around and you have to pay for your evil deeds.

Nemesis catches vindictive people sooner or later!

Vengefulness is a negative streak, which can only be addressed by our own inner voice. Like all negative emotions, it does hold some goodness. It acquaints us with our real self. it might lead us to introspection!

Negative emotions are very subtle and deceptive. They absorb more energy but they often walk away victorious, testing our patience and strength, ennobling us, belittling our ego, thereby transforming us into humble human beings.

You can read more about negative emotions and how they help us.

Thank you for reading this. Please add your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.



48 thoughts on “Why Are Some Human Beings So Vindictive?

  1. I think you hit on the source of revenge and vindictiveness, Balroop – that for tens of thousands of years humans had to struggle for survival and compete for limited resources. But now, when aggressiveness is no longer necessary, those old instincts still have a grip on the primitive parts of our brains. Replacing them with reason is wonderful, but I love your recommendation to use them as opportunities to learn as well. Insightful post, my friend.

    1. Many thanks for adding your insights Diana. The aggressiveness has found new focus and competition seems to be at the core of such behavior. The other day as I happened to pass by the practicing children, I heard the coach say : “be aggressive!” When such values are encouraged then we can expect it everywhere!

  2. Negative thoughts of inadequacy and being ignored are good indicators to bullies too. Those who have to hurt others or lord themselves onto others to feel better about themselves is common theme with bullies. 🙂

    1. I agree Deb, bullies build themselves from negative thoughts and sit on that heap all their life because their pedestal seems to be a throne to them 🙂

  3. I’m glad you chose this subject to write about. Lately, I feel finding a good soul in urban areas has become so difficult. In contrast you can still trust people from rural areas. It’s not just about vindictive nature.. it’s also about trustworthy. Money seem to be one of major reasons why human values have gone down.

    1. Thank you arv, for linking this subject to trust and simple people albeit basic human traits remain the same. Goodness does play its role in all walks of life…Reminds me of what Lincoln said “for every scoundrel there is a hero, for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader… Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.”

  4. Another interesting topic that you chose to explore, Balroop. Certainly some people may feel that way and would step over anyone and everyone to get what they want. Maybe it’s because of competition or competitive streak in someone. But I really like your point about proving one’s power, and insecurities. We want what we don’t have and we have yet to see the value of what we already have – and the things we can learn and gain when we work together and learn from each other. Over the years, I’ve learnt that no one is better over the other in terms of personality and being a person. Sure we can be better at some things like driving a car or sewing or singing in tune. But for most part when it comes down to being a person, we are each individuals with individual backgrounds which we can all share around 🙂

    1. I am glad you agree with most of the points I have raised Mabel…competition does blind some people and insecurities don’t let them see the futility of vindictiveness. They end up hurting their own selves and lose the trust of their dear ones too. It is very difficult to conceal your real nature, which gets exposed sooner or later!
      Many thanks for sharing your reflections and adding so much value to this post. 🙂

  5. Sadly I think it is inbred into our Human Genes, and you touched upon our ancient survival instincts that kick in. But also I think its control, to know one one is getting the better of them, so they show them who is boss by being vindictive back.
    Now take a School Bully, I have come across many during my own school days who would taunt and say horrid words to wound. and if you were shy and submissive it would only seem to intensify. But the moment you became stronger and stood up for yourself, giving as good as you got back verbally. They backed off a little.
    Now this is only mild by comparison of how some people behave to each other who take it to a whole new level of horror.
    But even in the best of us there is still that streak, that given the right circumstances it will rear its head.
    Maybe it is how Ego survives and dominates .. While we wish to shed ego, ego is necessary in some respects to enable us to be driven to succeed and prosper and survive.

    I loved reading your post Balroop, you presented us with many reflections as to Why are some more than others so vindictive.
    Love and Blessings my friend ❤

    1. Sue, you have nailed this negative streak with the best example of a bully…many children have to face it at school and even at home. I think wreaking vengeance is most strong and open at that stage of life when teenagers are just learning to handle their emotions. Most of the time they are driven by innate raw trait and if there is lack of right guidance or love, it gets stronger and uglier.
      Thank you so much for sharing your pearls of wisdom…ego does play havoc with vindictiveness! You understand emotions so well Sue! Love and hugs back to you. Stay blessed!

  6. You’re right it has a lot to do with jealousy and people limits and boundaries. I don’t see any other reason to it Balroop.
    It looks like vindicative people have a love of negative energy and anger within them. Instead of finding a place where they can let go, they use revenge as a way to feel better. It’s an illusion.
    The best is to stay outside of the game they are playing or our lives can become a real mess with such people around. Sel protection is needed.
    Thank you for sharing your views on the subject Balroop.
    Stay well and have a beautiful day.

    1. Rightly said Marie…negative energy sticks like glue and you have to make a conscious effort to seek freedom from it. Probably vindictive people refuse to rise from those dumps they jump into…the illusionary world of their satisfaction keeps them content with game playing! Slowly they lose trust and friendship.
      Thanks for standing by to share your thoughts dear friend. Stay blessed!

  7. Very well said, Balroop. Although there are times for justice we must always remain grateful for what we have. People who want to take away our happiness through sabotage don’t deserve our company. A profound topic here, Balroop. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  8. An excellent post, Balroop. As human beings, by our very nature, we all need these reminders. I find that focusing on the positive is one of the best ways to keep those negative thoughts in check. Here is one of my favorite Scripture verses that helps keep me focused: Philipians 4:8 New International Version
    ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.'” This verse reminds me of a contemporary adage that says: “GIGO” and here’s my take on that one: Garbage in, garbage out; good things in, good things out. Our deeds are influenced by what we see, hear and think about. 🙂 Sharing your thoughtful and wise message! ❤ Blessings and love! xo

    1. Thank you for sharing this verse Bette…I too try to focus on all that is right and pure and admirable to knock out negative thoughts and people. Thoughts make us what we are! 🙂

  9. I’d wager I don’t have a vindictive bone in my body on most days, but since I do think about getting revenge I would never act out, I suppose that does indeed make me vindictive. People who play games never make it very far in my book. I don’t have the patience.

    1. I wonder whether there is any difference between the terms ‘vindictive’ and ‘revenge’… patience has its own rewards but it also depends on the situation. People have played games on me and few I could distance also but some cannot be eliminated. Some gray streaks have to be accepted!

  10. My grandmother taught me at a very young age that jealousy and envy are wasteful emotions and that vindictiveness makes you lose your common sense. We’re all going to feel these emotions at one point or another, but how we choose to act on them makes us who we are. Are we going to be vindictive and hold a grudge or use these feelings to our advantage, like you stated? Your post reminded me of this quote: “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”~Malachy McCourt

    1. Oh yes, Vashti grandma’s wisdom is never forgotten as it is passed on with a lot of love. You have rightly pointed out that emotions need to be channelised. Negative emotions require more attention as they are usually brushed aside, nobody likes to dwell on them but they play a significant role in molding our personalities.
      Thanks for sharing your input, much appreciated.

  11. This topic of yours have put me in profound contemplation, and when I look back and scan the people around me I know what it means and how has been their behavior and actions. One thing I have come to a definitive conclusion is that there broadly two categories of people, one who have that negativism and vengeance in their gene and they have a liking and inclination towards being revengeful and they derive a pleasure in that engagement, we can call them sadistic some are vocal sadists and others are silent sadists; the second they hate being in that situation and they rarely get into such zone of conflict under pressure or duress.

    Here it comes, the debate on nature and nurture, those who have deep in their gene, even they go through the moderation and nurturing, it shows up it’s ugly head in some occasion or the other, needs a trigger, they can’t hold back for long. And they don’t regret such actions which afflicts others or hurts other’s sentiments. How can we not question the role of ego which has its control on us and it all depends on how much we have those ugly side of gene with us, and that gets manifested through nefarious power. There is two aspects to our life, the inner world and the world that is outside to us, and we get clouded with negatives thoughts when we look at things in terms of materialistic possession to kind of relationships and family we have nurtured or blessed with…it is the control on the inner world through spiritualism and self expression and meaningful engagement that makes all the difference.

    There is always that fight for the right and there is no equanimity of right when the disparity is on the rise, in today world there is a spike and the distribution of wealth to health is never equal…gap is rapidly widening. That’s when we talk aspects like meditation and mindfulness.

    Thanks so much Balroop for sharing a much needed thought provoking topic.
    Have a lovely day ahead!!!

    1. Nihar, I am so glad this topic made you share analysis of two kinds of people around us who take pleasure in negativity and vengeance. We may try to ignore such people but they still cross our path in one way or another. I know some of them and I am grateful to them because they have helped me in embellishing my personality besides giving me a lot of food for thought!
      Ego has destroyed many relationships and continues to do so as the culture of individualism and self-love has given a boost to it. Inner world gets more powerful when we pay greater attention to our own motives and aspirations. Mindfulness and meditation take a back seat. Thank you for going deep into the topic for analyzing human behavior.
      Stay blessed!

      1. All is in our hand and the people around us will of different personalities and we cannot change them beyond a point and we can always change our behavior and our attitude when we look at them, and many things we hate seeing in others but we may have done it inadvertently and may have hurt others, time to correct, reflect…we need to see the actions of negative people to understand why we shouldn’t be negative to others and how we need to control our ego and anger, and how humility and humbleness makes life so pleasant and makes the people around us calm and composed…
        Thanks so much Balroop.

  12. Negativity has become one of the most prominent character traits of people nowadays. You’ve analyzed the very root of revenge or vindictiveness here. I’m tired of seeing this among people even in the virtual world. I usually try to avoid such people. They have nothing to contribute to one’s life!

    1. You are right Mani, the best solution is to avoid negative people. I have not seen them change or even make an effort to do so. I think negative streaks get deeply embedded in one’s personality. Thanks for sharing your reflections. 🙂

  13. I’ve always wondered about this question and you did such a great job explaining the different aspects of vindictiveness. Seems like a person’s worse nemesis can be herself. 🤨

  14. I think you pretty much summed it up. As you know, we’ve been dealing with this kind of small thinking lately. It’s funny to read from other ppl that they simply avoid mean folks, but that’s much easier said than done. Sometimes life tosses challenging personalities in our way and we have no choice but to do the best we can under duress. Perhaps the lesson is to see through it, and figure out a way around it. I don’t know…still trying to figure it all out.

    1. I agree with you Lani…easier said than done! Many such people happen to be part of our extended family and you bump into them even when you don’t want to! 🙂 Thanks for sharing such an honest view.

  15. Balroop, a fascinating article and some interesting comments as well which have kept me absorbed and reading. Vindictiveness is evident from a young age and I remember some incidents when my son was young and at primary school. Already then I could see what a few of the young children were like, one or two intent on hurting, upsetting, having their own way. It was sad to witness… both the consequences of their actions but also knowing that this road to destructive behaviour seemed set in stone. I wonder how easy it is to break the cycle and the first desire to change has to come from within and for the intent to remain steady and not just a flash in the pan.

    1. I have also noticed Annika, hits are exchanged even by toddlers and it seems to be a natural human reaction till children are trained to control their emotions…not a very easy job though. This natural urge to give it back in the same coin transforms into vindictiveness, which is sometimes concealed and attacks surreptitiously.
      Thanks for coming in to share your perspective. Have a nice weekend. 🙂

  16. There’s a song that goes something like “Accent the positive; eliminate the negative; don’t mess around with Mr. Inbetween.” I have always felt that eliminating the negative is the key to a happy existence. Vindictiveness is just another form of negativity, and it saps one’s strength. Being positive is its own reward. YOU, my dear lady, are a positive force in the lives around you! Thanks for a great post. 🙂

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