Friday, June 18, 2010
The Farce of Forgiveness: Why Didn't I Blow Him Away?
(If you haven't read my 6-13 -2010 blog, The Freedom of Forgiveness, please read it and then proceed with this.)
Having read that blog, a friend asked me, "In light of what he did to your daughter, why didn't you follow through with your wishes--and kill him?" It wasn't because I didn't want to. It wasn't because of a lack of love for my daughter. It wasn't because he was remorseful and begged our forgiveness (actually,he never even acknowledged that it happened; he denied everything.)
So, why didn't I, at the very least, take batting practice with his head, if not kill him?
There are layers of answers to that question. I believe it was Carl Sandburg who likened life to an onion in that "you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep." There has certainly been weeping in the process of peeling.
I didn't brutalize or kill him because I was chicken. Big thoughts, little action. Loud bark, no bite. I was afraid that regardless of how elaborately I schemed the perfect revenge, I would, nonetheless, be apprehended. I would end up spending years--decades?-- in prison while he would never see the inside of a cell. And I'm also a chicken when it comes to hangin' out with the inmates; boys will be boys and boys will do boys. So there--I was afraid of getting caught. And, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to whack him off even if I were handed the opportunity.
I didn't kill him, even if I could have gotten away with it, because my "high"view of him would not allow me to do so. Don't get me wrong: there were many days when I held a very "low" view of him and on those days if I had let myself see him only as a scumbag, I could have squashed him like a fly. But, as sick and cruel as he was, and likely is, he still bears the imago dei--the image of God. He is still person, not puss. He is still a father himself. He is still a human being who did inhumane things to my daughter. Yes, that imago dei is tarnished, warped and skewed, but he is still an image-bearer. Who am I to extinguish the life of another human being? There is something of incalculable value, something of priceless intrinsic worth in another human being, whether that person is diabolical or divine. Seeing him in that manner did not allow me to do harm.
I didn't harm or kill him because as a Christ follower I believe that to have done so would be a contradiction of essence, a violation of the essence of what it means to follow Christ. It is beyond me, i.e. I have not become this yet, but we are called to be people who "love your enemy," people who "bless those who persecute you," people who "do not take revenge. . . but leave room for God's wrath," people who are not "overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:14-21.) That is not yet who I am; it is who I aspire to be. That disposition is, in fact, the opposite of my natural inclinations. That disparity between who I am and who, as a Christ follower, I desire to be is one of the things that has made these years so difficult. My natural inclination says, "Destroy the !!#*?^!!!!" Jesus Christ, on the other hand, beckons if not directs me to somehow, in spite of my rage and tears, to love and forgive the !!#?^!!!! (Notice how I still place myself above this man and speak of him in disparaging terms?) Like I said, I'm not there yet. But it is a loving and forgiving person that I aspire to be.
I didn't harm or kill him because I am not totally convinced that he is fundamentally all that different from me. No, I didn't do what he did. On a behavioral level, he and I are not the same. I am superior, thank you. But on a level of the soul and psyche I have had thoughts, I have entertained desires that are as dark as the coffin in which they and my body will be contained, never to see the light of day. There have been times when I have been in the throes of either fiery rage or excruciating hurt and my mind has entertained thoughts that have spun my head in disbelief. "Where did that come from?!?" Thoughts or desires that feel as though they were not only hell-bent but hell-sent. You will be relieved, as am I, that those moments are aberrations, not the norm. However, the fact they even exist and careen around the some days hallowed-- other days hellish-- halls of my psyche is terribly sobering and disconcerting. The reality of those thoughts and desires that still clamor for attention begets a humility and serves to prevent me from seizing my deceptive and grandiose moral superiority and destroying all others whom I would regard as less and lower than me, which would comprise the entire rest of the human population.
And so I let him live while I learn to forgive.