Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Savoring the Enemy’s Losses

 

“Grant had captured an army of at least 13,000 men, a record of the North American continent. He showed mercy toward the conquered force, giving them food and letting them keep their side arms. Avoiding any show of celebration, he refused to shame soldiers and vetoed any ceremony in which they marched. ‘Why should we go through with vain forms and mortify and injure the spirit of brave men, who, after all, are our own countrymen,’ he asked.” — from Grant, by Ron Chernow

“If your enemy falls, do not exult; if he trips, let your heart not rejoice, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and avert his wrath from him.” —Proverbs, 24: 17-18

For all his overindulgence with alcohol, Ulysses S. Grant was a brilliant general. Although he had some embarrassing losses, he was relentless, strategic and smart. Yet he agonized over those left dead on the battlefield, whether they were his own men or the men of the Confederate army. He was not only determined to lessen their misery, but tried to treat the wounded and dead on both sides, with dignity and compassion.

If you are a Christian or Jew, you are also called by G-d not to indulge in schadenfreude or gloating over another’s loss. I can guess at the reasons (not being a religious expert): G-d, for one, wants us to remember that the enemy was also created in His image. We are also supposed to love our enemies, because when we savor their defeat, we lose a piece of our own humanity.

Keep in mind that wins and losses don’t just apply to battles. What about politics? What about court trials?

Beyond those explanations, what is your understanding of this divine instruction? If you’re not religious, do you have a different perspective? If you are religious, do you try to follow this rule? Do you disagree with it?

There are 46 comments.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I would not know polticially, as the right does nothing but lose.

    • #1
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Rodin Member

    This is an excellent question. If we look at Proverbs as a practical statement as opposed to ecclesiastical, then it seems to be saying something similar to “be sure to treat people well as you go up the ladder and they will not treat you poorly when you come down the ladder”. Life has ways of turning the tables so it is unwise to treat a foe so badly that you will receive the same or worse in the future.

    We like to think of shame as having insufficient power in our current culture. But shame remains and is powerful in individual lives. If someone is effectively shamed (fairly or unfairly) it builds resentment and a powerful desire to pay it forward. It is a risk whenever you shame someone regardless of the justification. So if it must be done, one has to accept the attendant risks.

    Machiavelli advised that if you defeated someone you had a choice to kill them or treat them better than they thought they deserved in the circumstances. For if you did not kill them, but treated them badly, you have created a dangerous foe.

    • #2
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:12 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Vectorman Thatcher

    I like your use of interconnectivity with these two quotes. Beautiful!


    The Quote of the Day is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. We have many openings on the May Schedule, including three this week.

    If this reminds you of a quotation that is important to you, why not sign up today?

    • #3
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:14 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    This is an excellent question. If we look at Proverbs as a practical statement as opposed to ecclesiastical, then it seems to be saying something similar to “be sure to treat people well as you go up the ladder and they will not treat you poorly when you come down the ladder”. Life has ways of turning the tables so it is unwise to treat a foe so badly that you will receive the same or worse in the future.

    We like to think of shame as having insufficient power in our current culture. But shame remains and is powerful in individual lives. If someone is effectively shamed (fairly or unfairly) it builds resentment and a powerful desire to pay it forward. It is a risk whenever you shame someone regardless of the justification. So if it must be done, one has to accept the attendant risks.

    Machiavelli advised that if you defeated someone you had a choice to kill them or treat them better than they thought they deserved in the circumstances. For if you did not kill them, but treated them badly, you have created a dangerous foe.

    Gosh, so many good points, @rodin! Shaming used to have its role in our culture (such as the shame of being an unwed mother), but I think in those times, it not only taught the mother but others of the important values we try to maintain in society. But now, the shamer gets shamed. Everything is supposed to be tolerated, and even celebrated (such as a baby shower for the unwed mother).

    But I digress. My personal struggle is with the court case with which I’m engaged; every little “victory” on our side leading up to the trial is one I am not just relieved to hear about, but one I relish. If we win, will I gloat? Hard to say until one is in the moment.

    • #4
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:18 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Quake Voter Inactive

    Susan, I have to confess to feeling pretty schadenfreudtastic last night when the news of Eric Schneiderman’s scandal and resignation broke.

    “Call me master” was schadenfreudlicious.

     

     

    • #5
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:40 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Rodin Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    But I digress. My personal struggle is with the court case with which I’m engaged; every little “victory” on our side leading up to the trial is one I am not just relieved to hear about, but one I relish. If we win, will I gloat? Hard to say until one is in the moment.

    In my earlier comment I did not address the ecclesiastical aspect: what letting certain emotions take purchase in our lives does to us internally. Empowering the negative feelings of a foe is an external risk; empowering your own feelings is an internal risk. What is the difference between the righteous “Yes!” and the unrighteous “Yes!”? Are you relishing a personal triumph, or a triumph of justice? To my mind the harm of any emotion, if harm it be, is what is the next act that it promotes? 

    • #6
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Arahant Member

    Susan Quinn: Keep in mind that wins and losses don’t just apply to battles. What about politics?

    If the other side keeps things in perspective. But if they go overboard with craziness way out of proportion, it’s very difficult not to get a little extra lift from their wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    • #7
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:48 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    • #8
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:54 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Susan, I have to confess to feeling pretty schadenfreudtastic last night when the news of Eric Schneiderman’s scandal and resignation broke.

    “Call me master” was schadenfreudlicious.

     

     

    Yeah, I know. I think we’re being called in most cases to avoid gloating, but sometimes it’s irresistible.

    • #9
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    But I digress. My personal struggle is with the court case with which I’m engaged; every little “victory” on our side leading up to the trial is one I am not just relieved to hear about, but one I relish. If we win, will I gloat? Hard to say until one is in the moment.

    In my earlier comment I did not address the ecclesiastical aspect: what letting certain emotions take purchase in our lives does to us internally. Empowering the negative feelings of a foe is an external risk; empowering your own feelings is an internal risk. What is the difference between the righteous “Yes!” and the unrighteous “Yes!”? Are you relishing a personal triumph, or a triumph of justice? To my mind the harm of any emotion, if harm it be, is what is the next act that it promotes?

    Awesome. Truly. Yes, those are very helpful distinctions to make. But since we are flawed and emotional beings, it can be hard to predict how we will respond to a given situation. I will aspire to the approach you offer here. Thanks.

    • #10
    • May 8, 2018, at 8:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Ummmmmmm……… help me out here, @addictionisachoice. I can be a little thick sometimes. Or are you just suggesting a physical likeness? Yes, I see that . . .

    • #11
    • May 8, 2018, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Stina Member

    Susan Quinn: G-d, for one, wants us to remember that the enemy was also created in His image. We are also supposed to love our enemies, because when we savor their defeat, we lose a piece of our own humanity.

    Have you seen DreamWorks’ Prince of Egypt? It is my favorite depiction of Moses and Pharaoh.

    It shows them as brothers and friends. I’m inclined to find it more true than the old 50s and 60s epics of Pharaoh and Moses being adversaries and rivals.

    What made me like it so much is that through that retelling, I saw how much the plagues, especially the Passover, sat ill with Moses. Moses was pleading with Pharaoh because he cared about Pharaoh.

    No other Hebrew at that time would have cared. Having been enslaved, beaten, and their babes ripped from their arms to be tossed in the Nile, they wouldn’t have seen Pharaoh and the Egyptians as human. Moses saw Pharaoh the way God saw Pharaoh and likely mourned and grieved for him.

    • #12
    • May 8, 2018, at 8:08 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  13. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Ummmmmmm……… help me out here, @addictionisachoice. I can be a little thick sometimes. Or are you just suggesting a physical likeness? Yes, I see that . . .

    Sorry, yes, just doppelgranters, er, doppelgangers. 

    • #13
    • May 8, 2018, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    AltarGirl (View Comment):
    Moses saw Pharaoh the way God saw Pharaoh and likely mourned and grieved for him.

    And of course in the Torah, G-d commands the Israelites not to hate the Egyptians. Same premise. I haven’t seen the film, but I’ll put it on the list. Thanks, @cm.

    • #14
    • May 8, 2018, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Actually, there is an INCREDIBLE play that explores this in great depth. It makes for super reading, and I provided part of the soundtrack for its first performance….

    Check it out! http://chanacox.com/pharoah.shtml

     

    • #15
    • May 8, 2018, at 9:08 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. KentForrester Moderator

    Nice post, Susan. Surely, rising above schadenfreude is Godlike. Indulging in schadenfreude is human, all too human.

    Sort of on the same topic, Alexander Pope once wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

    Kent

    • #16
    • May 8, 2018, at 10:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. MarciN Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Sort of on the same topic, Alexander Pope once wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

    Or as they used to say in the corridors of the publisher I used to work for, “To err is human. To forgive is not company policy.” :-)

    • #17
    • May 8, 2018, at 10:13 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Kevin Schulte Member

    For the Christian the mark of Holiness, is humillity (you can have humility and be unholy too). Rejoicing over the vanquished is the opposite, “pride”.

    Not to be maudlin, just an observation. I wish I didn’t fail at this so often.

    • #18
    • May 8, 2018, at 10:45 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):
    I wish I didn’t fail at this so often.

    Me, too, @kevinschulte.

    • #19
    • May 8, 2018, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: If you are a Christian or Jew, you are also called by G-d not to indulge in schadenfreude or gloating over another’s loss. I can guess at the reasons (not being a religious expert): G-d, for one, wants us to remember that the enemy was also created in His image. We are also supposed to love our enemies, because when we savor their defeat, we lose a piece of our own humanity.

    Yep, I’m a sinner, and schadenfreude is one of my biggest sins (not being a Reagan member on Ricochet is a close second). My only defense is at least I take pleasure in the people who deserve it. I know there’s a wide gulf between Adolph Hitler and Hillary Clinton, but I’m glad both lost . . .

    • #20
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:18 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. BigDumbJerk Member
    BigDumbJerk Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m of two minds on this…while I theologically understand that we are to treat our foes with respect & honor, I sometimes feel that there isn’t enough “drink(ing) out of the skulls of our enemies!” going on (metaphorically, of course….maybe…..sometimes….).

    Part of warfare is psychological; to keep with the Civil War theme from the OP, Sherman’s burning of Atlanta & march to the sea was nothing but psychological warfare, intended to quash within the enemy any remaining will to fight, thus brining the conflict to a swifter end (and, thereby, reducing the number of casualties).

    Does celebrating in victory not have a place within this? 

    • #21
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Bruce Catton points out that Grant took it further than the Chernow quotation shows:

    And [Grant] wrote into the terms of surrender one of the great sentences in American history. Officers and men were to sign paroles, and then they were to go home, “not to be disturbed by the United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they reside.” Grant looked at the beaten army and he saw his own fellow Americans, who had made their fight and lost and now wanted to go back and rebuild. But the war had aroused much hatred and bitterness, especially among those who had done no fighting, and Grant knew very well that powerful men in Washington were talking angrily of treason and of traitors, and wanting to draw up proscription lists, so that leading Confederates could be jailed or hanged.

    The sentence Grant had written would make that impossible. They could proceed against Robert E. Lee, for instance, only by violating the pledged word of U. S. Grant, who had both the will and the power to see his word kept inviolate. If they could not hang Lee they could hardly hang anybody. There would be no hangings. Grant had ruled them out.

    Catton, Bruce. U. S. Grant and the American Military Tradition (Kindle Locations 1632-1641). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

     

    The Battle Cry of Freedom is a Union patriotic tune written by George Root in 1862 that Abraham Lincoln adopted as his election campaign theme song in 1864; the South liked the music but not the words, so they wrote their own. Boge Quinn is a southerner; he is playing a fine instrumental version here.

    • #22
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:40 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    BigDumbJerk (View Comment):

    I’m of two minds on this…while I theologically understand that we are to treat our foes with respect & honor, I sometimes feel that there isn’t enough “drink(ing) out of the skulls of our enemies!” going on (metaphorically, of course….maybe…..sometimes….).

    Part of warfare is psychological; to keep with the Civil War theme from the OP, Sherman’s burning of Atlanta & march to the sea was nothing but psychological warfare, intended to quash within the enemy any remaining will to fight, thus brining the conflict to a swifter end (and, thereby, reducing the number of casualties).

    Does celebrating in victory not have a place within this?

    Good question, @bigdumbjerk. I think that you are to do everything you need to do in order to vanquish the enemy. But do you delight in their deaths and losses? Even with a given battle, it is one thing to single-mindedly destroy the enemy. How we respond to victory–appreciating the victory–is not the same thing as relishing their deaths. The differences may seem subtle, but very important. Does that make sense?

    • #23
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:42 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    Bruce Catton points out that Grant took it further than the Chernow quotation shows:

    I must confess I haven’t finished Chernow’s book; the war is not yet over, as far as I’ve read. You probably know that Lincoln would not punish the Confederate soldiers, either. It seems that Lincoln and Grant were of like mind on this topic.

    • #24
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. RufusRJones Member

    Susan Quinn: What about politics?

    Alinsky tactics work. Critical Theory is real. 

    I have completely changed my mind about this stuff. 

    • #25
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    AltarGirl (View Comment):
    Moses saw Pharaoh the way God saw Pharaoh and likely mourned and grieved for him.

    And of course in the Torah, G-d commands the Israelites not to hate the Egyptians. Same premise. I haven’t seen the film, but I’ll put it on the list. Thanks, @cm.

    iWe (View Comment):

    Actually, there is an INCREDIBLE play that explores this in great depth. It makes for super reading, and I provided part of the soundtrack for its first performance….

    Check it out! http://chanacox.com/pharoah.shtml

    Thank you! This is nowhere near that level, but I often think of Pharaoh confronted with Moses and the plague of frogs and calling on his sorcerers scientific advisory board.

    “No problem, your majesty, this is old technology.”

    “Just what I needed. More frogs.”

    • #26
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Hypatia Inactive

    I’m not sure this is really very complicated. It’s a truism of folk wisdom, like don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

    And why? As the Proverbs quote says, because it might make God change his mind, and you  will be the loser! It’s a superstition that it’s bad luck To celebrate too early. Tempting fate. Hubris. 

    And okay, so the Jews weren’t s’posed to hate the Eqyptians. Their hatred woulda been gratuitous given that God–whatever his emotion toward them–had already inflicted horrible,suffering upon them, culminating in murder of their children! (Of course that was only tit for tat, but still ..) 

    in the NT we are enjoined to love those that persecute us. I think because if you can pull that off, it is really irritating to your persecutors at first, then if it persists, kinda scary, like Jesus words from the cross: “Father forgive them- for they know not what they do..”

    • #27
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    I loved the instrumental that @ontheleftcoast shared of the “Battle Cry of Freedom” so I looked for a vocal version. There are some wonderful photos, too

    • #28
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    Bruce Catton points out that Grant took it further than the Chernow quotation shows:

    I must confess I haven’t finished Chernow’s book; the war is not yet over, as far as I’ve read. You probably know that Lincoln would not punish the Confederate soldiers, either. It seems that Lincoln and Grant were of like mind on this topic.

    A bit earlier in the book, Catton put it like this about the period just before Grant’s last campaign against the Army of Northern Virginia. It is a very clear and concise exposition of the relationship between the political and the military aspects of war in a democracy.

    Grant was part of a unique team. He was a realist, seeing clearly how the country could get what the country professed to want. The other half of the team was Abraham Lincoln, who knew—perhaps better than any other American has ever known—how to appraise the temper of his fellow countrymen and how to put into that temper, subtly and mysteriously, an occasional trace of his own high resolve. He underwrote Grant’s program. In effect, he pledged that Northern endurance would be ample for the job at hand. In the end it developed that he knew what he was talking about. Because he was right, Grant also was right.

    Catton, Bruce. U. S. Grant and the American Military Tradition (Kindle Locations 1534-1539). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

    It’s a short book, beautifully written. One could do much worse than read it and then read, or reread, Grant’s Memoirs.

    • #29
    • May 8, 2018, at 1:59 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  30. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    BigDumbJerk (View Comment):

    I’m of two minds on this…while I theologically understand that we are to treat our foes with respect & honor, I sometimes feel that there isn’t enough “drink(ing) out of the skulls of our enemies!” going on (metaphorically, of course….maybe…..sometimes….).

    Part of warfare is psychological; to keep with the Civil War theme from the OP, Sherman’s burning of Atlanta & march to the sea was nothing but psychological warfare, intended to quash within the enemy any remaining will to fight, thus brining the conflict to a swifter end (and, thereby, reducing the number of casualties).

    Does celebrating in victory not have a place within this?

    Good question, @bigdumbjerk. I think that you are to do everything you need to do in order to vanquish the enemy. But do you delight in their deaths and losses? Even with a given battle, it is one thing to single-mindedly destroy the enemy. How we respond to victory–appreciating the victory–is not the same thing as relishing their deaths. The differences may seem subtle, but very important. Does that make sense?


    Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition and molded shells and shot to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, and desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can now only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success. But, my dear sirs, when that peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter. Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them and build for them in more quiet places proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta.

    — Maj. Gen William T. Sherman, to the Mayor and City Council of Atlanta, Sept. 12, 1864

    (emphasis added)

    • #30
    • May 8, 2018, at 2:57 PM PDT
    • 4 likes

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