It’s quite natural to feel angry with those who we think have wronged us in some way. We perceive our suffering as a result of their willful deeds and feel that they should be made to suffer some punishment in return. In fact, most justice systems are based on this human impulse. The state determines guilt via legal proceedings and then punishes wrongdoers – in lieu of citizens exacting their own revenge. This may work for lawbreakers, but what about our daily lives, in which offenses and injuries can be much more subtle?
We often experience injustice in ways that the law cannot easily remedy: denial of a promotion due to personal prejudice, betrayal of a friend or lover, or simply a person being verbally cruel to us. In these situations, it is up to us to decide whether to pursue revenge or to forgive. Some may believe that taking revenge is immoral and that compassionate forgiveness should always be the goal. Others think that vengeance is acceptable if proportionate to the crime, and that it actually restores a kind of balance in the universe.
To investigate how different personality types might react in such situations, we asked our readers whether they agreed with the statement, “You usually prefer to get your revenge rather than forgive.”
Only a minority (38%) of respondents agreed overall, but the results revealed important insights into how certain personality traits influence a person’s willingness to forgive. The Intuitive and Turbulent traits were important factors in respondents’ agreement, but the single most influential factor was the Nature aspect – respondents who possessed the Thinking trait (54% agreeing) were a stunning 31% more likely to agree than those with the Feeling trait (23%). Let’s explore the implications of these results in more detail below.
Analysts (58% agreeing)
While a slim majority of Analyst personality types agreed with our research statement, this Role agreed far more than any other, a result attributable to the fact that all Analysts possess the Thinking trait. The Nature aspect determines how people make decisions, and for Thinking types, it’s all about making logical and rational conclusions, and disregarding emotions. Analysts view reality as a system in which certain events follow others in rational order. When a transgression occurs, it’s only logical that punishment should follow. Analysts also tend to be harsher judges of character when it comes to people whose opinions and actions don’t align with their own, which may make them more apt to believe that revenge is justifiable.
Analysts’ own lofty ambitions may be another crucial reason for their inclination toward revenge. Innovative, strategic, and fiercely independent, Analyst personalities often have bold visions and grand designs – and they may not hesitate to strike against people who get in their way. This is especially true of Commanders (ENTJ) (59%) and Architects (INTJ) (58%). “I am not in danger, Skyler,” the fictional Architect and drug lord Walter White famously told his wife in Breaking Bad. “I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!”
All Analysts are also characterized by the Intuitive trait, which gives them a certain degree of inward focus that can lead them to churn on ideas, both creative and vengeful. They can’t help but theorize and imagine possibilities when their mind is focused on something, whether it’s a brilliant new business idea, for instance, or on exacting revenge against someone who they perceive to have thwarted a business venture. Steve Jobs, the ingenious cofounder of Apple and a Commander personality type, may come to mind as an example from the corporate world. In fact, Turbulent Commanders (ENTJ-T) agreed the most of any personality type (68%) that they prefer to get revenge than to forgive.
Explorer personality types were 27% less likely overall to agree than Analysts that they prefer to seek revenge, but Explorers were significantly divided in their results by the Nature aspect. More than half of Explorers with the Thinking trait agreed (51%), while less than a quarter of Explorers with the Feeling trait did (22%). It may be the case that the Thinking personality types, Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (51%) and Virtuosos (ISTP) (50%), were slightly less likely to desire revenge than Analysts because they possess the Observant trait. Down-to-earth and pragmatic, Observant types likely find it more productive to get back on their own path and move on, rather than getting carried away by thoughts of revenge.
Dominated by their combination of Intuitive and Feeling traits, Diplomat personalities consistently showed low rates of agreement with our research statement. Although their Intuitive trait makes Diplomats visionary types with wandering minds, their Feeling trait tends to focus that wandering in a much more empathetic and compassionate direction than we see in Analysts. Whereas an Analysts might make a snap judgment about an individual who they believe has wronged them and wish to take revenge as a logical next step, a Diplomat will spend time trying to understand the other person’s point of view and what may have motivated them to act as they did. It is exactly this empathetic quality that helps Diplomats excel in positions of diplomacy, mediation, and social cooperation – a Diplomat is certainly not likely to adopt an eye-for-an-eye philosophy toward justice.
The results did show a slightly higher (3-4%) rate of agreement from Prospecting Diplomat personality types than from their Judging counterparts. The Prospecting trait might correlate slightly to a desire for vengeance because Prospecting types are more likely to entertain their impulses. The act of revenge can create problematic consequences, and the more conservative Judging types might actually be averse to taking such risks.
Given that Sentinel personality types are known for their rather rigid adherence to law and order, it may seem surprising at first that Sentinels were the Role with the lowest agreement, but a closer look again reveals a major division between Thinking types (45%) and Feeling types (18%). Beyond that major correlating factor, Sentinels’ Observant and Judging traits also contributed to their lower overall agreement. Their pragmatic and sensible approach may temper their emotional response to being wronged, allowing them to focus on proactively repairing the damage and regaining their power and productivity, rather than on punishing someone else. These personalities may very well believe that the wrongdoer deserves to be punished – it’s just that they prefer to leave justice to established, trusted authorities, rather than to take it into their own hands.
Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) (11%) were the least likely of all personality types to agree that they favor revenge. Consuls are remarkably caring people who thrive on building strong social bonds, helping others, and creating harmony, all within the established social order. Averse to conflict, Consuls’ first impulse is forgiveness, not revenge.
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (38% each agreeing)
With the Social Engagement and Constant Improvement Strategies being the most likely to agree with our research statement, it is evident that a Turbulent Identity plays an important role in respondents’ inclination toward revenge. In fact, the Identity aspect was the second greatest correlating factor – respondents with Turbulent Identities were 12% more likely to agree than those with Assertive Identities. Social Engagers and Constant Improvers both tend to be more capricious than those with Assertive Identities, and they are often perfectionists who may fixate on wrongs that have impeded their own social or personal success. As we saw with Turbulent Commanders, this could translate into increased desire for revenge. Concerned with what people think of them, Turbulent personality types are also more likely to feel hurt by others’ misdeeds.
Confident Individualism (29%)
Defined by their Assertive Identity, members of the Confident Individualism Strategy are less concerned with the opinions of others, and perhaps because of their personal confidence, they can more easily ignore or forgive wrongs. Confident Individualists in particular naturally prefer to do things on their own, relying on their own strengths and instincts. Less vulnerable to damage caused by the actions of others, these personalities may feel inclined to distance themselves from those who’ve done them wrong, wishing to avoid becoming mired in continuing negativity.
People Mastery (25%)
The Extraverted trait sets the People Mastery Strategy apart from Confident Individualism, resulting in even lower agreement. In addition to possessing an Assertive Identity that helps negate their desire for revenge, People Masters are far more concerned with social harmony. These personality types may find it both more satisfying and more productive to forgive, because doing so helps them get back on track toward positive interactions with people. They would prefer to get along, and being more tolerant is a key part of that approach.
With the Thinking and Turbulent traits accounting for the highest levels of agreement with our research statement, we can conclude that contemplative, rational, ambitious, and restless personality types generally experience the most intense desire for revenge. They are more prone to brooding over the wrongs they’ve suffered and seeking satisfaction through some kind of tangible action. Even-tempered, self-confident, and empathetic people, on the other hand, are far more likely to forgive, possibly because they have more sympathy in general, or perhaps because they would simply prefer to invest their energy in more pleasant feelings and productive activities.
Similarly, Intuitive and Prospecting personality types reported higher agreement, showing that adaptable, innovative thinkers cannot help but turn their creative imaginations to revenge if they have been hurt. Conservative, practical, and structured types seem more reluctant to pursue revenge, perhaps preferring to return to their normal, satisfying routine.
Returning to the overall result, however, the fact that a minority of our readers responded that they prefer to get their revenge than to forgive indicates a prevailing attitude of forbearance and fair-mindedness in our society. Even among those who agreed, not all those who yearn for revenge actually make that desire a reality.
What about you? Do you prefer revenge or forgiveness? How has your personality type spurred you on or held you back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.