Your thoughts on horrible things happening to horrible people

The recent Jerry Sandusky conviction has me thinking about how I feel about punishment for people that have done horrendous things.

The concepts of Heaven and Hell, as well as Karma, offer some sort of penalty for doing bad things, but I don’t really believe in those things. I don’t think Karma is a real force acting on the universe, but I like the idea of it, so I try to at least treat it as real. The idea that a deity will punish transgressors doesn’t seem real to me.

I suppose it’s true that we should strive to be better than the awful people and not wish them harm, but I honestly can’t see myself thinking that way in extreme cases. If someone rapes a bunch of kids, or kills bunch of people, I hope that very bad things happen to that person. Some may find that appalling, but I don’t think that sentiment is likely to change for me. Schadenfreude is one thing, but hoping for retribution is another.

I think that if everyone turned the other cheek, there would be no one left but barbarians, and even then they’d kill each other off.

If this turns into a debate about capital punishment, so be it, but I’m talking about wishing ill on those who have actually committed heinous acts against other people.

So, when some atrocious person gets convicted of committing unspeakable acts on a number of people, do you hope bad things happen to them? Do you trust God to sort it out? Do you trust the legal system to be fair? Does my hoping for something bad to happen to them make me a bad person, even though my hopes influence nothing?

I wished some pretty serious misery on someone who broke my heart this year. Luckily the karma gods weren’t listening. I think he’s doing fine.



Hell no.

I don’t think it does. Most people want people to get what they believe those people deserve. And they’re just thoughts. Actions are entirely different (although I’m all for revenge for its own sake sometimes too [but not by the government]).

Unconscionable crimes (like child rape) cause outrage in pretty much anybody with a conscience. I think most people feel very similar to how you feel (although I can only really speak for myself). The desire for vengeance is very primitive, indeed, but I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s conquerable on an individual level. Maybe for Buddhist monks, I guess? I’ve never met a hardcore Buddhist monk. But for the vast majority of people, it’s natural to want to harm somebody who has so harmed you or society. Particularly when the victims are younger and more innocent than the average adult victim.

But the thing is, getting all mad about the horrible things random people do to other random people doesn’t stop other people from continuing to do horrible things. We’ve decided as a society that the best way to deal with this is to remove a criminal’s ability to do horrible things for a while (or maybe for the rest of his/her life). We recognize that, while our personal feelings after a tragedy are vengeful, vengeance doesn’t restore anything to society. Vengeance actually has negative consequences for society (what if you kill the wrong person by mistake? what if you didn’t take mitigating circumstances into consideration? what if your angry mob causes property damage or physically harms bystanders on accident?). This is why vigilante justice is illegal. So, we do the justice thing instead.

Mitigating factors are a really big deal. A vigilante is too emotional to care about them, but the justice system takes them into account. In cases where there *are *no mitigating factors, like Sandusky’s, you get a pretty heavy prison sentence. But many crimes are mitigated by something. Maybe that woman only flashed passersby because she was mentally ill. Maybe that burglar only mugged someone because his family was starving. Maybe that dealer only sells drugs because she can’t afford to pay for her husband’s chemotherapy any other way. Maybe that guy killed his wife in a crime of passion, and he isn’t going to recidivate. Maybe that murderer only killed that woman because he was coerced.

Whatever the reason, though, it’s too late to fix what happened after a crime has been committed. I mean, I’m completely outraged by what Sandusky did too. I was molested as a child, and it’s a topic that bothers me a great deal. If I personally were in charge of his fate, I’d be all for chucking pineapples up his ass for eternity (NSFW clip from Little Nicky). But at the same time, I realize that this desire for vengeance is thoroughly primitive. And more importantly, it doesn’t undo what he did. So I would never let myself be put in charge of making that decision. While I would love, in my heart of hearts, to cause harm to bastards like him, I realize that I’m not capable of being rational about the topic. It still doesn’t stop me from wishing him harm–nothing can do that, short of an icepick lobotomy or a conversion to Buddhism.

t doesn’t happen enough (the second part, the first part happens too often).

There’s a distinction to be made here. There are the average-bad people who injure us the average-good people. People we can’t help but occasionally meet in business or our social lives. These we come to accept the inevitability of, repair the damage and shrug off the emotional trauma as best as possible, and get on with our lives. We’re reasonable people, and can reasonably expect that their behavior will ultimately limit their happiness in life.

Then there are the monsters. Most of us only read about them, and, like we do with other celebrities, indulge in fantasies. But while we may fantasize about jamming onstage in a small club with a rock star, we might fantasize about an apt torture chamber for the monster.

However, when ordinary people do encounter the monsters, like the fathers of Adam Walsh and Polly Klass, they don’t expect animal revenge. They seem to revert to the reasonable outrage as they do for ordinary situations, measured up to fit the crime. They only demand what the extent of the law will allow, and that their loss be made a landmark of prevention against future monsters.

The problem of horrible things happening to horrible people is that it’s all subjective. What one person considers to be a horrible person may not be the same to another, and what one may consider to be a horrible punishment may barely be a drop in the bucket.

Viewpoints are subjective. Justice is subjective.

I wanted to believe in karma, so badly. I think most cultures have some type of belief of karma, be it that they will either get their just-desserts in this life, the next life, or the afterlife. I feel like the next life and afterlife are cop-outs, though…an attempt to comfort people when their horrible person hasn’t been punished in the now.

I recently talked to my therapist about this type of dilemma. I know a handful of people that I consider to be horrible…The main one I was talking about was my mother. A truely terrible person who seems to have gone her whole life just taking and harming with no real reprecussions. She always has somebody or something to fall back on to live life comfortably (usually at somebody elses’ expense,) oblivious to all the harm she’s done.
I was more upset than I realized and began to babble off about how much I wanted to believe in karma and balance. He pointed out something that will always stay with me: Karma, religion -whatever you call the notion of providing justice and balance to the world- is a manmade construct. Man is fallable. Of course holding a belief that constantly goes unproven over and over will upset you! Once you strip away the fallacy and see the world as it is, full of horrible people who get away with horrible things at times, then you can begin accept life as it is and to heal.

I don’t think wanting or hoping bad things to happen to bad people MAKES you a bad person, as long as the bad thing you want is kinda the same level as the bad thing they did. In that case you are basically wanting karma in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever heard folks complaining that Karama is bad or unfair or would cause some kind of social strife. Now whether it exists in any form is a different story.

I will say that I get kind of creeped out when people around me are sincerely advocating and relishing the idea of another person being raped or tortured, regardless of how heinous the actions of the desired victim were.

I agree. I’m satisfied with the thought of an evil person being punished by making them live out their lives with as little joy as possible.

I had a therapist tell me the same thing, when I was saying something “should” or “should not” happen. “Should” depends on your point of view. Unfortunately, I can’t get behind that, not completely. There are lots of "should"s that are dictated by the majority, or by the authorities, to keep society from falling apart. I don’t care how man-made the concepts of right and wrong are, you shouldn’t beat your kids, you know?

This. It really bugs me when those people are so open and brazen because they know that wishing rape and torture on certain people are socially acceptable. That freaks me out, people who are ok with the most inhuman kinds of evil just so long as it is socially condoned to wish it on individual or group XYZ. Societies are far more evil than individuals.

There was a guy who was once a friend of mine, many years ago.

He took a lot of speed, and it messed up his mind. (Well, it seems he had a predisposition to paranoia and the drug abuse brought it to the surface, but whatever.)

He decided that I am an evil person, and took it upon himself to threaten to kill me in disturbingly lurid death threats he mailed to me, and by leaving messages on my answering machine, and also by contacting my other friends and telling them that I was doing very evil things. Fortunately no one believed his crazy stories. Unless and until this sort of thing happens to you, you have no idea how incredibly horrible it is. It really messes up your life.

So anyway, a while after he got sick of bothering me and moved to a different town, I heard he’d died. The drugs caught up with him. I just felt a little relief, and a little sadness that someone who was once, at least, a kind of friend had made such a horrible mess of everything. But, really, mostly relief. The nasty fucker will never bother me again.

So, yeah, horrible thing happened to someone who had become a horrible person, and I’m fine with that. Does that make me a bad person? Well, I don’t think so. But, you know, there could be a range of opinion about that.

In that case, I definitely agree with you. I think that when I was talking to my therapist, the “should” and “should not” were less about societal rules, more about abstract or governing rules. More like “My mom *should *be struggling more than she is, given all of the pain she caused us. It’s not fair.” I guess there were some societal based ones now that I think about it like “I know I should not hate her, but I do.”

I think that you definitely have to go with your gut on things like this. For me, it was just nice to be told by someone that it’s okay to not have to follow cultural obligations and that the world isn’t perfectly balanced. The thing I will always remember is the difference between a value and an obligation- is that “should” or “should not” coming from you because you truely feel it, or is it more of an obligation? I’m still trying to practice that one.

Revenge, divine justice, or karma don’t have to be invoked to grasp that nurturing the desire to harm another damages your soul.

Princess Leia said that the desire for revenge is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else. (Okay, I know it wasn’t Princess Leia. I just can’t remember her name off hand.)

What about those Amish whose children were murdered, who forgave the killer? If he hadn’t killed himself, would it have helped them heal so much better if they had bludgeoned him to death with shovels?

I still hope bad things happen to bad people… but deep down I don’t blame people for who they are, or what they’ve done. Even if they are adults. I try not to punish out of malice.

Just to clarify my point, I wasn’t actively wishing death on my crazed stalker, but when he died I was (and still am) a little pleased about it.

I think it’s OK to feel OK about someone getting what they deserve, but it’s not OK to have a celebration party about it. And the people that want to form lynch mobs are, to my mind, just as bad for society as the people they want to lynch.

I believe that the huge majority of people who do terrible things are in pain themselves. I think Jerry sandusky’s life has been horrible, and has gotten worse. That doesn’t excuse what he did, but it does keep me from wanting revenge.


God is the only righteous judge, so yes. That said, I do think we have to have laws and punish those who break them.


No, it’s natural to want to see evil punished and good rewarded.

I find this sentence immensely sad. I’ve been on the receiving end of some seriously traumatizing events, but resisted the urge to wish ill on those involved. Perhaps initially, for a short time. Mostly out of an intuitive feeling that it would only harm me, could contribute nothing positive, and was a waste of perfectly good energy.

Most people learn, as children, that allowing envy to consume your thoughts and feelings only leads to frustration, anger and disappointment. It’s definitely a choice though. Like anger, like bitterness, like envy. If you don’t want it in your life, you have to choose otherwise. Sounds simple, huh? But like most things, in practice, (and it definitely takes practice!), it’s not really.

I think it helped me to reach indifference as to whether karma ever caught up, to those involved, or not. Once you reach indifference you can sort of feel the healing.

Of course, I am a Buddhist, but these events unfolded well before my exposure to Buddhism.

This reminds me of something thats been brewing in my mind lately. Perhaps people who do REALLY bad things and do them often can’t actually help it. Doesn’t excuse it, and you sure as hell need to lockem up or something but on the other hand it does kinda throw a monkey wrench into the whole “they deserve what they get” idea.

Then again, I am becoming more and more convinced that free will is an illusion anyway which means shit happens, no one’s to blame, you die, and then profit! or something.