Don't Get Mad, Get Even: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
November 17, 2023

The phrase "don't get mad, get even" suggests that if someone wrongs you, instead of wasting time feeling angry, you should take action to settle the score. This often involves a form of revenge or retaliation. The phrase is commonly used in scenarios where someone feels wronged or slighted and is contemplating what to do next.

In short:

  • This phrase encourages taking revenge rather than merely feeling angry.
  • It's often used to fuel action in response to feeling wronged or slighted.

What Does "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" Mean?

When someone says, "don't get mad, get even," they're urging you to focus your anger into action that will settle the score. For example, if someone pulls a prank on you, instead of staying angry, you might decide to pull a prank on them in return. It's about channeling your energy into an action that will make you feel as if the scales have been balanced.

Let's dig into its core meanings and usage:

  • This phrase tells you to channel your anger into exacting revenge or settling a score.
  • It's usually used to energize someone into taking action that they believe will make things even.
  • People use this phrase when they believe the best way to respond to an offense is to give the offender a taste of their own medicine.
  • It's a phrase often heard in competitive or adversarial situations, such as sports, business, or even personal relationships.
  • Similar phrases include "an eye for an eye," or "give them a taste of their own medicine."

Where Does "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" Come From?

The phrase "don't get mad, get even" has its roots in American culture and is often attributed to John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States. He used this expression during an interview with journalist Ben Bradlee, later published in 1975 as part of the "Conversations with Kennedy" series. The phrase advises against wasting energy on anger when wronged by someone; instead, it advocates for taking action or seeking revenge as a more effective response.

Historical Example

The phrase was well-known during Kennedy's lifetime, even before his assassination in 1963. Carmine Warschaw, a spokesperson for the Democratic party, used the saying in a speech that appeared in the California newspaper "The Valley Times" in February 1965. The quote from the newspaper reads as follows:

“Mrs Warschaw introduced the congressmen and elected officials who attended the dinner. Regarding some Democratic losses she had this advice: ‘Don’t get mad… just get even.’”

10 Examples of "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" in Sentences

To help you better understand this phrase, let's look at some examples from various situations:

  • After being teased at school, Tim thought, "Don't get mad, get even," and won the spelling bee.
  • To prove your mettle in the competitive world of business, don't get mad; get even by outperforming your rivals.
  • He was cut from the basketball team last year, so this year, he thought, "Don't get mad, get even," and made varsity.
  • After a bad breakup, instead of being angry, she thought, "Don't get mad, get even," and focused on improving herself.
  • When your coworker tries to play footsie with the boss to get ahead, don't get mad; get even by showcasing your skills and accomplishments.
  • She felt slighted by not getting the promotion, so she decided to "not get mad, get even" and worked even harder.
  • After being criticized publicly, the artist used the phrase "Don't get mad, get even" as motivation to create his masterpiece.
  • He lost the poker game on purpose so that he could "not get mad but get even" in the next game.
  • After her team lost, the captain thought, "Don't get mad, get even," and led them to victory in the rematch.
  • God forbid you should ever find yourself wronged by someone you trusted; don't get mad, get even.

Examples of "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" in Pop Culture

This phrase often appears in movies, books, or TV shows when characters feel wronged and plan for revenge.

Let's check out some examples:

  • George Hayduke, in his book "Don't Get Mad, Get Even," offers a guide on how to creatively and effectively take revenge. The book provides various methods for getting even with those who have wronged you.
  • Gretchen McNeil, in her book "Get Even (Don't Get Mad)," tells the story of a group of high school girls who form a secret society to take revenge on bullies and wrongdoers. The book is part of a series and revolves around themes of justice and revenge.
  • Barb Goffman, in her eBook "Don't Get Mad, Get Even," compiles 15 tales of revenge and more. The eBook explores what happens when people decide to take matters into their own hands.
  • Alan Abel, in his book "Don't Get Mad...Get Even!," offers various ways to get even with people who have wronged you. Published in 1983, the book contains 124 pages of revenge tactics.

Synonyms: Other Ways to Say "Don't Get Mad, Get Even"

Here are some other phrases that convey the same idea:

  • An eye for an eye
  • Settle the score
  • Turn the tables
  • Give them a taste of their own medicine
  • Hit them where it hurts
  • Repay in kind
  • Get your revenge
  • Two can play at that game
  • Make them regret it
  • Get back at them

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Don't Get Mad, Get Even":

  • What does "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" mean?

This phrase means that instead of getting angry when someone wrongs you, it's better to take action and get revenge or justice.

  • How can I use "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" in a sentence?

You can use it as advice or motivation. For example: "When they cheated you in the game, don't get mad, get even" or "She thought, 'Don't get mad, get even,' after her friend betrayed her."

  • Is this phrase more common in casual or formal settings?

The phrase is usually used in casual settings and less commonly in formal or professional environments.

  • Is it used to encourage negative behavior?

Not necessarily. While the phrase might imply revenge, it can also mean striving to do better as a form of 'getting even.'

  • Does the phrase appear in pop culture?

Yes, it's a common theme in movies, TV shows, and books that deal with themes of revenge or justice.

  • Is it considered polite or impolite?

The politeness depends on the context. In some situations, it might be seen as promoting negativity, while in others it could be taken as motivating.

  • How does it differ from "Turn the other cheek"?

"Don't get mad, get even" promotes action, often as a form of revenge or justice. "Turn the other cheek" suggests forgiving and not retaliating.

  • Can it be used in legal contexts?

It's not typically used in legal settings, where the focus is generally on lawful ways to resolve disputes.

  • Does it have historical roots?

The phrase is not specifically tied to a historical event, but themes of revenge and justice are age-old.

  • Does it apply to group dynamics?

Yes, it can be used to describe a group's collective feeling towards another group, especially in sports or competitions.

Final Thoughts About "Don't Get Mad, Get Even"

The saying "Don't get mad, get even" can serve different purposes depending on the context. It's often used in casual settings and is a common theme in pop culture, especially those dealing with revenge or justice.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The phrase suggests taking action over simply getting angry.
  • It can be either motivating or seen as promoting negativity, depending on context.
  • It contrasts with forgiving phrases like "turn the other cheek.
  • The phrase can apply to individuals or groups and is often a theme in pop culture.

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