Monday, October 18, 2010

chance- get out of jail free card

on another blog i keep, a good conversation on justice developed from a post about a TV show. in my view, it's well worth reading.

a question was raised at the end that caught me by surprise, however. it challenged me to examine the chasm that exists between the man i am and the one i seek to become.

"Question is, is there such a thing as being too merciful/gracious?" (sVs)

i don't know about this...

my old sense of crime and punishment says 'yes'
my growing sense of embraceable ideal says 'no.'

what to do?

i think that i have been raised in an environment so prone to pronouncements that it is an ongoing struggle to default beyond this. in most cases, it's fairly common to see a black hat on one guy and a white hat on the other. as a matter of fact, i have even noticed, upon looking deeply into my own relational world, that if i can identify one 'villain' in the group i am more ready to extend grace to everybody else in the room.

i believe the word for this is 'scapegoating'
not good.

it bugs me that it is so easy to focus all my negative energy, presumption, cold officiousness, harsh scrutiny, suspicion and even expectation upon one person, while granting everyone else in the game the 'chance- get out of jail free' card. it's a twisted redemption game where the lamb to be sacrificed is not the most perfect, but the one with the greatest observable flaws.

marilyn manson, mass-media manipulator extraordinaire, reflected upon this once: People tend to associate anyone who looks and behaves differently with illegal or immoral activity.

there has got to be a better way.

you'd think that, with all the preaching about unconditional love and the unmerited favour of God that i do, the best of it would either come from a deeper place or, through my preparation process, sink in a little deeper and ultimately become the new default setting. working on that.

whatever the case, here's a thought that is emerging:
if it is possible that one's capacity for mercy plays a key role in increasing the readiness to extend grace- what then?

what i mean is this: if one can be taught to see the other indescriminately- to remove the hats, both black and white- and see people's apparent inability to live to realization the best things about themselves as lamentable rather than indictable, then perhaps one can find the grace needed to extend to them, even against the pain that they seem to be inflicting upon others. there might be hope there.

oh, to be more merciful, more gracious,
more ready to give the other a chance.

see, somehow God affords the breaker of natural law opportunity to be redeemed. neither the most nor the least unrighteous of us is struck down where he stands because God has just had it with him. the yet-to-be-realized good in a person may be the only thing that God sees in his infinite mercy and patience. the ability to see in our limited capacity for the same is what's needed for the rest of us who aren't God, for this is integral in bearing his image, recognizing and responding to it in others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the ability to see in our limited capacity for the same is what's needed for the rest of us who aren't God, for this is integral in bearing his image, recognizing and responding to it in others" (JB)

Before anyone gets me wrong - I believe in maercy - and a lot of it towards anyone and everyone I meet or have contact with. It's the least I can do.

For me, everyone is equal, no one is of more worth than the next person...from a mayor to a adminstrative assistant. Some people have more responsibilities in their lives while some don't, but all are equal in 'value'.

So I think everyone deserves a lot of mercy as well, since I would like to be treated with a 'grain of salt' sometime and not judged into exclusion at other times. I find I can give what I can get and can even give to the degree I can comprehend a person's need for mercy (empathy).

But mercy does have a limit, even a self imposed one (which is really the only limit that matters).

I do not feel it is fair for the law to not take my life, as much as I would beg and plead, if I went on some murderous spree that culminated in breaking and taking some multiple lives for 'fun' or the 'challenge'. Serial killers are slowly being found to 'enjoy' what they did. So are many other criminals, as long as they don't have to pay the piper at the end of it. Humanity does have a dark side, we need not look far to find, in fact Regina just had a triple homicide a month or so back.

I am a pretty forgiving person and have seen a lot of dirt in my lifetime, raised in true dysfunction and many violent scenarios. I have develped quite the merciful tendency for the people who committ such acts, which I utterly despise, but I can see how they got there and why. I stretch the bounds for my mercy towards people.

But I am not so forgiving if it were me doing those things. In fact, if I abused my wife to the degree I have seen many women treated - I would hope to God someone would kill me for inflicting such horror on another human being. It's hard to believe that I might believe we can be better without some people around, but I do. In fact, I have seen it firsthand.

My father died when I was 10. It was that day I realized what it was like to be freed from torment. I did not cry when he died, I wondered why other people were crying for this man. All the fears I have to this day come from him and his many and various abuses to myself, other family members, and mostly to my mother.

I made a vow when I was 8 to kill this many 8 year olds do that kind of crazy thing?

Sometimes the best mercy is when someone is removed from the situation. That's hard to believe or justify since we do not have forsight for the future...but it can happen when a tormentor is 100% removed as someone to hurt someone again. You feel a sense of 'justness' just occured.

I feel this way when I see the victims families of Ted Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer, and crimes that shake one to their core. I kind of can relate to their torment, their loss, their suffering, something that mattered so much is gone now. It's emotional and the anger is as thick as today's fog.

Justice has the side of mercy, when mercy is deserved. It also has the side of punishment when it is deserved. To deny either is to deny humanity it's own needs.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

wow. what a powerful comment. thank you, sVs, for going deep here with regard to your own journey.
taking the words that follow it seriously, i would observe (and hopefully sensitively) that to extend mercy is not 'the least (one) can do'... in some cases it is beyond the very most.

the challenge for me comes in trying to understand how we determine when mercy is deserved and when it isn't. are our own self-imposed barriers real enough, objective enough, just enough? to what degree is mercy warranted simply because the one requiring it is entitled to it as a human being, regardless of this one's own offences, both inflicted and endured?

tricky questions to pose even hypothetically. much more difficult when informed by personal pain. but does personal pain undermine or otherwise countermand the need to explore these questions as part of one's picture of things?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"to what degree is mercy warranted simply because the one requiring it is entitled to it as a human being, regardless of this one's own offences, both inflicted and endured?" (JB)

It is really tricky. I know when someone offends me or does the actual crime to me I am more apt to forgive. Not sure why that happens exactly.

But if someone does the offence to someone I love deeply (ie: the wife) then my mercy factor would go down.

Somehow our emotions play a pivotal role in when and where we decide on grace/mercy's merits.

"but does personal pain undermine or otherwise counter(de)mand the need to explore these questions as part of one's picture of things?" (JB)

I think with personal pain we are automatically thrown into the deeper ends of the pool of mercy; we are involved.

My wife is reading a story about a lady from Sierra Leone that has horrific things done to her during a civil war in that country. She is choosing to 'forgive' even when men cut off both her hands, she had to walk for many miles to the local village, bleeding the whole way - barely surviving. All this because they did not want her to 'vote'.

But that person is choosing to forgive. I am betting her family members are not so 'forgiving' (since for them it is perception of the incident on a person they love).

It's really a strange thing mercy, and only we can decide for ourselves what is merited and what isn;t. Like the girl in Sierra Leone we will find our mercy is pretty great (and God is to thank for this IMO) when the offence is something internalized by our experience.

But imagine that girl from Sierra Leone was your wife and someone did that to her for 'kicks'...would revenge not be amongst the top emotions to occur? Wouldn't you want justice, by law obviously, to happen to these perps?

I am quite fascinated by how it all changes when we place ourselves as the victim and someone we love as the victim.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

i agree... empathy is kind of a big deal. that we would feel the pain of the other more intensely than our own is actually one of humankind's most attractive attributes.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home