When I told you about the guy who jacked my car, what did you think of him?
If you had to rate the carjacker and yourself on a scale of one to ten (with ten being good and one being bad), who would you put closer to ten: you, or him?
Probably you, right? After all, when was the last time you stole a car?
If I could bottle the energy we spend trying to feel like we are better than someone (anyone) else, I think I could light up all the darkness everywhere, forever. This seems to be a universal human instinct. It is everywhere, and it provokes us to every kind of ugly thing: from fistfights, to wars, to divorces.
It comes from fear, and is birthed by the belief that the best way to prove that we are lovable is to show that someone else isn't -- at least, not quite as much. We deserve better than they do, we think, because we are better.
And so we scour the world, looking for someone to look down on.
This, I think, is what we mean when we say that we want justice. I think we want those idiots to get what's coming to them, because it'll provide one more layer of proof that they are idiots, and we are better.
So my car gets stolen, and then I find a bunch of laundry in the trunk. The Cops say throw it away. My dad needs a belt, so he eyes the one in the laundry bag. I try on the shoes, and then ask my friends on facebook if they want a pair of 38/32 Aeropostale jeans. Everybody laughs and thinks it's funny, and someone comments and says they were probably stolen, anyway. The dude's a thief, right? He left his parole sheet in the pocket of those jeans, so he must be a hardened, incorrigible criminal. Everything he owns, he has undoubtedly stolen.
Because of this, I'm justified in doing whatever I want with those clothes, right? I mean, this dude's cost me hundreds of dollars. He's cost me time. He's cost me emotional pain. He deserves to lose his stuff, right?
But wait a minute...
These are not my clothes. These are not my shoes, or my laundry basket, or my hot-pink bic lighter. These are not my things at all. I did not buy them, and they were not given to me -- not really.
What about "stealing is wrong"?
What about mercy, grace, and love?
What about "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?
Forget justice: what about these principles -- the ones I like to yammer on about on this website?
While you may argue that I would be justified in taking them, aren't there some things that are more important than justice? And do I really want to live in a world where an eye is taken for every eye lost?
It's never just an eye.
The dude jacked my car, and everybody thinks it would be best if the cops caught him and locked him up. And sure, yeah, that might keep him from stealing someone else's car for a while... but seriously?
A young man who has not had my advantages costs me a couple hundred dollars and some inconvenience, and I get to feel all righteous about the thought of him maybe losing a few years of his life over it? Shouldn't I want more for him? Shouldn't I love him better than that? Shouldn't I want the truth to reach down inside him and change him, free him -- turn him into a young man who instead of destroying lives, rebuilds them with love? Shouldn't I want that?
I do. I don't. I do.
Even after I had decided to call his parole officer and see if he was willing to act as an intermediary to return this young man's property, I still wanted to hang onto the hot-pink lighter. It's just a lighter, after all, and this kid stole a lot more from me than that. He used it to light and smoke a cigar in my car, and I hate the smell of smoke. I have a right to that lighter, and to justice, and to...
I trail off, tired of the sound of my own righteousness.
Tired of justice.
Tired of everything.
Some kid's been ripped off by life -- "stabbed by Satan," as K'Naan would say. Chances are statistically very high that he did not have a loving father like mine. He didn't go to private schools like I did and receive an education, a degree, and a love of learning. So he feels that the powers and principalities of this world have ripped him off, treating him as less a person than he really is. He knows he's better than all that, so he sees some pretentious white a-hole's car parked outside some pretentious white-person playhouse and he thinks, "I'mma have a little fun."
He is absolutely responsible for his decisions, yes. But still... if not for Grace, and years of others investing in me, I too might be stealing cars and God knows what else. Jeans, maybe.
So I am tired of justice. I am tired of the sound of my own righteousness. I am tired of a well so deep, I don't know how we'll ever climb out.
Maybe saying "no" to justice for this dude will provide a rung.
For him, for me... for you.
- - -
*Note: I put a lot of time into giving you this ad-free reading experience. If this post means something to you, you are more than welcome to pay me back by linking the bejeebers out of it on your social medias. And/or better yet, you could go pick up a copy of my book, "IMMORTALITY (and other short stories)." Dankegratzithanks.
SOME POSTS THAT'VE BEEN POPULAR, RECENTLY...
Abraham Lincoln. Ernest Hemingway. Leo Tolstoy. Reese Witherspoon. Mark Twain. Robin Williams. David Foster Wallace. Evelyn Waugh. Owen Wil...
There's a class of Americans that makes its living trafficking in sincerity. This class wears a mantle of pomposity while simultane...
I am writing to apologize for my behavior last Sunday. I want you to know that I am not normally one of those guys who acts like an idio...
The most frustrating thing about living in these insane times is the number of lovely, kind-hearted people I know who don't (won'...
Growing up Protestant-Christian, I was taught that one of the most important verses in the Bible was II Timothy 3:16, which says that "...