“Hey, watch out, that’s not safe.” I somehow learned to be careful as a little kid. I think the older brothers and sisters who watched over me, hammered it into my head, not wanting to have to explain blood and broken bones to our parents.
This media culture today feels like that sibling warning, “watch out, it’s not safe.”
As men in power are called out and thrown down from their positions of power because of their callous abuses of power, as women speak out, as teenagers walk out after school massacres, we see and hear a mighty roar: Never Again. Times Up. Me too. Silence is broken by brave and angry voices. Our world is, we hope, fundamentally changed by the voices that speak up and shout out with truth to power.
Yet at the same time, the anger and the fury are frightening. The scathing slanderous rhetoric and verbal violence between the victim and the perpetrator swells as people from around the country add their angry voices.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…they are all patrolled by vicious disembodied voices. The cost of sharing seems dangerously high. My inner child says it is not safe out there.
Perhaps it is just better to stay silent. But I choose to speak out now.
This is what I am wondering about: “redemption,” “mercy,” “forgiveness.” Who will offer these? Who gets to speak of mercy or redemption for the men who have done wrong? For the shooter who has murdered? For the justice that is denied? Is forgiveness possible? Is mercy possible?
I have not heard the language of compassion or the language of mercy offered towards the many perpetrators of cruelty, of violence, of murder, of victim blaming, or “gaslighting.”
Perhaps the frustration, the anger, the pain is just too high? Or maybe it is the fear of seeming “weak” or “complicit”?
I haven’t seen it said, so I will say it: we still have to seek restoration, redemption. We still need to offer mercy. And forgiveness. It may take years. But bitter experience has taught me that vengeance and anger are simply not enough for a life of meaning. And for myself, I know that a failure to forgive can stunt my life. Anger can be fuel for freedom, fuel for change, but it can also burn up a life.
- For most, the first step is to see or experience the other’s acknowledgement of having done wrong. Their remorse. Their contrition.
- I acknowledge that it is a later step to seek to restore the bond of our common humanity. To seek their redemption, their restoration again into the human family. To offer mercy. But this is a vital step, a crucial step.
- I acknowledge that “cheap grace,” forgiveness without a change of heart, mind and life, is just that, cheap and meaningless.
- But I will also put it out there that there is a time when we need to let go of the anger and the revenge for our own good, for the freedom to live our own lives…whether or not the other has come to accept their responsibility, their wrong doing.
This I have come to believe through the hard teaching of life experience. But I have also come to believe in it as the teaching of Jesus. It is evidenced in his life and in his death. As a pastor and a human, it is a compelling story and witness to me.
It is not easy. It is not fashionable. But I think we are in danger of annihilation by the absence of compassion, mercy, forgiveness. By a world filled with hate, without a desire for restoration, redemption of the lost, mercy for the damnable.
Compassion, even for the trolls on the internet. The hope for restoration, even for them. Forgiveness, even to the enemies of truth, beauty, life.
As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King jr. said: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
I guess I have to add this voice, to all the other voices.
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