I once read about a court case where a mom believed a daycare worker injured her child. There wasn’t irrefutable evidence for this, but the odds were the worker did something wrong. Even though the mom and worker had previously been very friendly with each other, after this situation nothing but the worker being thrown in jail for twenty years would satisfy the mom’s appetite for vengeance. The worker losing her job, her reputation, and financially being ruined by this wasn’t good enough. The worker’s life had to be fully and completely destroyed for it to be “fair”. Ever since reading this article something didn’t sit right and now with this hockey case, I figured out what that is. People are mean. In their hurt, some normally decent people get incredibly vicious, and the retaliation they crave terrifies me. Yes, I have been on the receiving end of some very vindictive people, which makes this more personal for me, but vengeance is dangerous. Retaliation spreads the damage out further, and it’s like these people lose their humanity in their rage. It’s essentially the same feelings that lead to acts of terrorism, but on a smaller scale. The sad reality is if the mom was able to get this worker put in jail for twenty years, that wouldn’t take away her hurt. In fact, the worker being put in jail would have very limited benefit in comparison to the damage it would cause the worker and her loved ones. Hasn’t she seen the original Batman movie with Michael Keaton? Vengeance doesn’t heal. It leads to a path of darkness and loneliness… and a series of movies where the star is replaced after the sequel with inferior Batman actors.
I believe people are defined by how they live and not just a moment. For instance, I once gave the Heimlich maneuver and saved a woman. This one moment doesn’t make me special. It was simply a great opportunity to help someone in need, but it doesn’t make me special. Similarly, years ago when I rear ended an elderly lady causing her to cry that doesn’t make me a monster. If I hit her like: “Ha ha screw you random senior citizen!” then I’d be a terrible person, but what are the chances of someone doing that? As far as people go, I believe we are all generally good. We are all capable of doing stupid things, especially when we panic, but overall the average person isn’t maniacally trying to hurt others for their own pleasure. Most people aren’t Jabba the Hut. Unless someone is in a fight, most people don’t even intend to hurt others, but even then, hurting the other person is often more about self protection than a thirst for pain.
One moment doesn’t define us; how we live does. Following this logic, how can I be okay with someone like the bus driver from the Bronco accident having his life fully and completely destroyed because of one moment? If anything, the driver is the victim of terrible luck. What are the chances of him hitting a bus full of young hockey players when he made a mistake? Even if that bus only had the driver or if the bus was full of felons being transferred to a different prison, people would have a very different reaction. My heart goes out to the truck driver who is now stuck with the fact that he hurt all of those people in one terrible blink of an eye. The guilt and memories must be crippling. Throw in the media and outsiders screaming hate, and I thank God I was spared being in a situation like this.
The truth is no matter what happens to the truck driver (or the former daycare worker) it won’t remove the pain people feel. And if anyone gets stuck in this thought of ‘eye for an eye’, that really just makes you the jerk. How is ruining the life of someone already dealing with the emotional pain of hurting others, which will in turn domino effect hurt all of his family and friends, going to make life any better? Is that really justice? It really just seems cruel. And when I’m yet to meet someone who has been driving for a few years who hasn’t had a close call while driving, I don’t know how anyone can be judgemental. As the saying goes ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ which is a cliché taken from Jesus saying “Let the person who has never sinned cast the first stone,” (paraphrase because I’m too lazy to copy and paste the actual line from John 8:7b). In situations like these, this is quickly forgotten because hurt makes people dumb, but we need to remember that we are all capable of having a really terrible moment, and we need to be willing to extend grace.
It’s times like these that I wish people were more Amish. In 2006 a gunman smashed his way into a schoolhouse and shot eight Amish girls ages six to thirteen killing five of them before committing suicide. The Amish community made national news as their response was beyond incredible. The Amish community members visited the widow, her parents, and the gunman’s parents to offer comfort and forgiveness. “One Amish man held Roberts’ sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts’ funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.”
There are a lot of terrible things that happen in our world. Some are done out of a maniacal and evil heart, but other things are the result of very unfortunate circumstances. Either way, the greatest impact we can have comes through comfort and forgiveness and not retaliation. Only through the latter will our world become a safer and more enjoyable place to be, especially when the more hurt and panic exists the dumber our actions tend to become. Forgiveness creates a cycle of love while relation creates a cycle of pain and hurt. I know what cycle I want to be in and I pray that more will chose to do the same.
This week may you see the power of grace over revenge.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people