Sometimes I think I see the world in a somewhat odd way. I’m extremely analytical, and very sympathetic. When I hear of the horrors and atrocities committed by people I’m caught up in the question, “why?” I look for reasons, reasonable ones, that could have led this person down this road to become the person that could commit such an act. Along the road I find myself feeling sorry for monsters.
None of us can ever say we wouldn’t have turned out similarly if we’d lived another persons life. None of us can say we would come out less scared and angry or twisted. We may even have become worse.
I’m not making excuses, or arguing for leniency, but sometimes I wonder how much pain could be prevented if we loved more and judged less.
Could there have been a point in that murder’s life, just one, that if someone had reached out in love to them it might have changed their path? Broke through the anger? Maybe if someone had tried to understand and love them, then this road that brought them down could have been circumvented?
And rapists? Molesters? There is a reason they say that most abusers were once victims themselves. Could it be that they walked a road to where they are now? A road that they may have once hated and fought against but eventually, after being judged, looked down on, hated, again and again, they gave up and gave in to every lesser impulse that prior abuse had confused within themselves.
Of course, its true that some people simply don’t want to be redeemed. Sociopaths exist. People who have no moral conscience. But its also abundantly true that there are many of the worst criminals who hate their actions as much as we do.
So what is our response? How often do I hear people lumping groups of people together and saying that they “all should be shot.” And I can understand it. But what does hate do? Even for the worst of us? What does hate do?
There is no way I’m arguing for leniency in judgment for actions taken, but what about leniency in judgment for actions not yet made? How often do we condemn punk kids in our minds? Caught in a web of gangs and violence before they even understand life? How often do we condemn the confused young teen, addicted to porn in a way that they can’t even control anymore.
However, there must always be a balance in kindness. Sometimes its kindness that calls for harsh consequences for those on a dark path. But the consequences should and need to come out of love, and not hate and judgment. How often does that happen?
I read a story in the news the other day about a man who had sexually abused many young boys. It was horrifying. The man apparently said that he was abused as a boy, and it was why he did what he did, and later apparently he killed himself. As I read it my heart grieved for those children, but also a part of me grieved for this man. Did he hate this part of himself? It’s entirely possible he did. It’s entirely possible that all of this abuse could have been prevented if someone had recognized his struggles for what they were at a young age, and instead of condemning reached out and tried to find him help. It’s also possible that he really didn’t care what he was doing, that he felt he somehow had the right, a mind twisted beyond redemption.
Does it horrify you that I could see a human soul in such a monster? A hurting child instead of a disgusting thing? That I actually want to see beyond the actions to the person behind them?
I can imagine it does. I can imagine the thought that I don’t hate such people for their monstrous actions can seem like a betrayal to their victims. But what does hate gain the victim? What does hate gain anyone at all?
Hate never brings justice, but it has been known to create monsters.
Hate is like a poison that erodes the soul. An infection that kills you slowly. Kills you, the hater, and unless you act on the hate in violence or cruelty, it never actually touches the person you hate.
Bitterness, unforgiveness, they are the same way. They hurt the person that harbors them far more than the person ever realizes.
But love? What does love do? What does forgiveness and grace do?
It’s true, not every person out there who hurts people can be redeemed and freed from their demons. Not all of them want to. But we can be free from our own, if we so choose. And if we choose to love and live in this way, maybe we can reach out and help bring healing to someone who needs it, if we learn to reach out with love instead of hate.
Did that man who abused those children deserve punishment? Absolutely. But did the little boy that he was deserve what he went through? Not at all. Did the little boy that he was deserve the subsequent torment of mind that drove him to become what he became? No. And I’m sure there were signs as he grew up of the torment he was fighting with. There are always signs. But we tend to close our eyes to them until its to late.
I don’t know how far my sympathy and love can go for such people, but I know how far it should go, it should be endless. Because that is the kind of grace God extends, and is the kind of grace He asks us to extend.
He sees the beasts in each of us. He knows our faults better than we do. His grace and love is extended to all and each of us, even the worst of us.
It can be so hard to grasp, this extent of grace. To understand that He really does love even those we’d call monsters.
Can we? Can we love like He does?
Can we have grace for a beast?
~Joy Aletheia Stevens