Abigail Ruhman is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
While spite is often viewed as a negative emotion, there is a benefit to embracing it as a motivator. As long as that it isn’t paired with physical malice, spite has the ability to actually motivate people to take action. The act of someone saying or implying that you can’t do something can spark this desire to prove them wrong.
That desire to prove them wrong stems from a place of spite. Spite is defined as a typically petty desire to annoy, frustrate or humiliate another person. While that sounds negative, the motivation associated with spite can be powerful and useful. Embracing it as a motivator is possible, and doesn’t have to be an inherently bad trait or experience.
Spite can fall into the smallest moments of people’s daily lives. The thing is that there is usually a loss on both the actor and the recipient. If someone behind you at Starbucks is complaining loudly about how the staff is taking too long, you might offer some people the opportunity to go in front of you. Even though you are making your wait time longer, you are punishing that person for being impatient or rude to the staff.
Spite can come in handy in cases where someone is attempting to prove another person wrong. One example of this can be found in C. S. Lewis’ critically acclaimed series, “The Chronicles of Narnia.” J. R. R. Tolkien, author of “Lord of the Rings” and a friend of Lewis, once wrote that he didn’t believe any good escapist fantasy novel would feature an electric lamp post. If you are unfamiliar with the popular escapist fantasy series, the electric lamp post is not only included but also plays a critical role within the series. Despite the fact that Lewis may have put in more work for the lamp post to fit within his novel, his desire to prove Tolkien wrong was worth the extra effort.
While Lewis had to work the lamp post into the series, there are some situations that involve spite where that extra level of work or dedication aren’t actually bad for the actor. As a college student, I know multiple students that are working hard just to prove to someone that they can graduate college.
Even in this case where the motivation may seem nonexistent, the desire to teach that person how to be kind and patient is a good thing. The use of spite shows the motivation to teach others how fairness actually works.
A fellow freshman told me about how her high school counselor told her she wouldn’t make it through college. She said part of the reason she works so hard is so she can go back to that counselor and prove that she was wrong. The beauty of this is that in situations like this, which are more common than society likes to believe, the desire to humiliate someone who doesn’t believe in you motivates you to do better.
Spite could be the reason you put more work into a project. If someone tells you that you can’t do something a specific way and you know that it’s possible, do it. You can prove them wrong, and say that you worked harder. That accomplishment is still yours.
As long as your spite doesn’t physically damage someone, who cares where that motivation comes from? Accomplishing something amazing to spite someone who put you down means you accomplished something amazing with a more interesting motivation.
Embracing spite as a motivator is okay. Doing something to prove someone wrong is okay. As long as you don’t let it consume you or put your mental health at risk, spite is a powerful tool that is useful to motivate you to actually do something. I, personally, find that my main motivation is spite, and it works.
Be spiteful when you need to be — it works.
Edited by Maureen Dunne | firstname.lastname@example.org