When Odysseus returns to Ithaca after 20 years, he finds his home infested with would-be suitors to his wife and throne, and he is tempted to kill them all. As angry as he is, Odysseus demurs.
He realizes that these suitors are his subjects and that, as their king, he has a responsibility to them. Also, the suitors’ families would not take their scions’ deaths lightly and might revolt. Odysseus may even see that he is responsible for this power vacuum because he’d left without setting up a clear governance structure.
But just when we think Odysseus has put aside the brashness he displays throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey—taunting the gods, putting his people in danger, tempting death and even risking being turned to stone—he reverts to form.
Despite some excellent reasons for restraint, Odysseus succumbs to anger and slays many of the suitors. Their families revolt against him and only an intervention from the goddess Athena saves Odysseus.
The lesson: Unless you have a god or goddess willing to intervene on your behalf, it’s never smart to let revenge drive your decisions.
— Adapted from “Odysseus and the Seduction of,” Paul Vanderbroeck, The Trinity Forum, www.ttf.org.
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