My English class this semester is chock full of tragedies. Murders, suicides, people who mess everything up and never take responsibility or understand that they're looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. The gamut of sorrowful happenings and tragic people.
In class this morning, someone said that they had felt rather detached from a certain character's death because this character had brought her trouble upon herself. It was her fault. She was to blame. And her death, which was her own doing, was so gruesome that my classmate felt distanced from her.
I almost laughed out loud at that. The night before, I had been cringing and feeling sick at that very character's death. I felt for that woman. After I finished the book, I was so cut up about it that a friend noticed and gave me a hug to comfort me. I needed it.
Different reactions much?
So I started asking around. It seems to be the general consensus that one is more to be pitied if one's pain is not one's own doing. That those who create their own suffering thereby lose the right to sympathy, in a sense.
I stared at all my friends when they explained this. I cocked my head at them. No comprendo.
Maybe there is a certain sort of sympathy, a sort of brotherly compassion that springs up from a knowledge that someone isn't to blame for what they're suffering. Maybe there is also a general grief at a world that could be so unjust. I get that. But quite frankly, I can't dig up as much sorrow for a situation like that. No matter how much pain someone is in, if they handle it nobly, I will be glad.
I focus on motives a lot. Obviously. And perhaps there are times when I go overboard. Times when I lack sympathy because, ultimately, I know someone's heart is in the right place. No matter their earthly circumstances, I know that such a person's soul is not being harmed, but rather strengthened by their pain. What's to grieve over in that? "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." I Peter 2:19-21.
The real sorrow hits me when someone is wrong, and when someone is hurting his/her own soul. When people are blind, and when they dig themselves into holes and then feel the consequences they should have foreseen from the start, that is when I'm sorry. That's what hits me hardest. The ones who are to blame. The ones who run and run in the wrong direction until finally they find themselves in a place they never wanted. They are the ones who merit my pity. Because after all, pity is earned not by the merit of goodness, but by the merit of being in a hard place. The ones who are wrong are in a much harder place than the ones who are right. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.
The noble sufferers may hit me in a different way, an admiring, "how beautiful" way, but they don't deserve any pity from me. They're doing just fine. They've earned my respect instead of my grief. The true tragedy is found in the ones who are completely lost, the broken, despicable ones who ruin their own lives. When they suffer for it, they deserve it, and the fact that they would deserve such terrible things is what makes me so sad.
If I hear that a friend has been in a car accident, I want to know if it was their fault, and if it is, I will feel far worse about it than if it were someone else's. I'm far more grieved at suicide than at murder. I'd rather hear a friend had died than that a friend had ruined his/her life. I'm understanding more and more that I'm weird in this. Perhaps this view needs a bit of tweaking. But I don't believe it's wrong. God loved us when we were yet sinners. He came to save not the righteous, but the sinners. His compassion seems to have been strongest for those who had dug themselves the deepest graves. He wept over Jerusalem, not because she didn't deserve the pain that was coming to her, but because salvation had been offered to her, and she had refused it.
So what am I saying? I'm not sure. I suppose I'm asking for opinions. I'm asking if I'm right. And if I am right, then I'm calling for a greater compassion for those who break themselves. After all, we're no better than they are. Not because of who we are, but because of who God is, we've received mercy and grace. Can we not extend the same to them? Of course they deserve what they're getting. We deserve hell, and we're mighty glad to have a God who doesn't give us what we deserve.