For those who are not aware, Lope de Vega is my favorite Spanish playwright  and one of his plays is called Castigo Sin Vengana (Punishment Without Revenge). Of course, the play’s action does not entirely live up to the title. To give a short summary of the action, in this play a neglected and much younger wife of a powerful noble meets and falls in love with a noble young man about her age who happens to be her stepson. Complications ensue, and the jealous husband/father maneuvers action in a very passive-aggressive way so that the two guilty parties end up being punished without his direct hand involved. Of course, being a proud Italian lord, he was motivated by revenge, but did not wish to act directly, which gives rise to the irony between the vengeance in his heart and the lack of visible vengeance in his very indirect actions.
What is the lesson in all of this? For one, the punishment without revenge in the play does not bear any close relationship with the concept in real life. Parents, of course, are supposed to discipline their children without revenge. Anger is a poor substitute for explanation of the reasons why a particular action might make parents so concerned or so frantic. Explanations and conversations are a far better instructor than the lashing out that comes from fear and anger or from wounded pride. After all, when people see angry authority figures, the lesson that they learn is how not to see that anger again, rather than why that anger was seen in the first place. Those opportunities to show areas of danger where the young might need to be a bit more watchful and wary (without being too suspicious) are often missed opportunities.
For another, the idea of punishment without revenge is an important part of understanding God’s justice. Like a good parent, God does not want to punish, but does it sorrowfully and patiently, desiring to give us every chance possible to repent and to change our ways without us having to suffer. Sadly, we human beings are a stubborn lot, and all too often we fail to take the opportunities for mercy that are so easily available, having to learn the hard way. I suppose it is better, though, to learn the hard way than not at all, even if it would be far easier to learn a far better way. I suppose we all have to learn as best as we can, though, whatever opportunities we get. It is far better to deal with punishment without revenge than the sort of disproportionate vengeance we see all around us.