Friday, May 14, 2010

HEY! NO FAIR!

In my eternal quest to figure out what the hell is wrong with me (a quest that has been in high gear this decade), I've been picking apart how I interact with people, and why I am constantly angry.

I have been trying to find the deeper meaning behind things. Not just, "I'm pissed because that guy cut me off in traffic," but more of, "I'm pissed because I have an overdeveloped sense of vengeance, and that's going to get me into trouble someday." (Princess Bride? No? Hookay.)

My friend Jeff talks about his kids a lot, and one of my favorite things is that they are not allowed to use the word "fair" in their house. Like it's a cuss, or something. Which I love. I wish he could put that rule on me, too. I've looked at my life for so long and thought, "It's just not fair." Why didn't I turn out like that? Why couldn't I have done that or experienced that? Why can't things have gone differently or better for me? Stupid, I know. But I think we all do it. Look back in regret or remorse at things, big or small, and wonder why they couldn't have gone differently. Maybe it's just me. But I can think of a dozen things off the top of my head.

And is it any wonder? I'm not making any excuse, but we live in a society filled to the brim with victimology. They should stamp it on our money. People sue because they feel they are a victim of some crime (and to make a quick buck). Entitlement runs rampant in this culture, because people feel the need for justice.

I am definitely a product of my mother. My mom is a wonderful lady, a caring, compassionate, giving woman who married three d-bags and raised me for the most part on her own. And I have found that I am more like her than I can ever imagine. Including her feeling like the world is against her and nobody loves her. Now, she knows this isn't true and so do I, but the feelings rise up in the moments when we (the universal "we") let our guard down, when the world is crashing around us and all is lost, in despair. My mom could, and perhaps does, look back on her life and say, "It's not fair." Three crap husbands, two bouts with cancer, working two jobs at 64, on and on and on. Huh. And I thought I had it rough.

I think about my mother and I want justice for her. I want justice when I read about the unfairness going on in this world, when people are swindled of their money, when people ruin other people's lives and get away with it. I get so angry! But do I get angry when I see a hungry man without food? Where is my cry for justice? Better yet, where is my cry for justice when I'm the culprit. When I hurt someone or tear someone down or wrong someone, where is my overdeveloped sence of vengeance then?

It's not there, because I've forgotten that justice is not just for the innocent, but for the guilty.

Justice -
1 a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially
by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of
merited rewards or punishments b : judge c : the administration of law;
especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the
rules of law or equity
2 a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1) : the principle or
ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or
ideal : righteousness c : the quality of conforming to law
3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness

- Merriam-Webster

"...the assignment of merited rewards or punishments." Punishments. Justice is brought on the guilty and the innocent alike, and I am a guilty bastard. I mean, I'm not a killer or anything, but I do my part. I judge people, I withhold mercy, I put people down, I write people off.

And I've forgotten the most important part: There's no justice in this world, anyway. I don't mean that in the movie-quote sense, but more in the sense that justice belongs to God. We only get justice from someone higher up who can administer that justice, right? We rely on the courts to administer that justice here in America. But how often does that fail? How many innocent people are wrongly imprisoned? How many guilty people go free? People are fallible.

God is not fallible, and justice belongs to God. You should read the Bible. I did a word-search for "justice" on biblegateway.com. It is chock-full of justice-talk. And it's kinda making me laugh because I know a lot of Christians that would be choking on their words if they read all of these verses. I love this, where Jesus is yelling at the establishment:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth
of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important
matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced
the latter, without neglecting the former." -Matthew 23:23

There's a lot of talk about justice in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, they also talk a lot about mercy, which brings me back to me. Jesus was sent to proclaim justice to the nations (Matt 12:18), and I deserve his justice. I'm a punk, and I deserve a punk's judgement, but instead, God is merciful to me. I deserve wrath, but God gives love instead. God loves me that much, that I deserve His fist, and I get His heart.

It's time for me to pass that on. To stop judging others, withholding love and asking for punishment.

I'm reminded of a call I got a few years ago. You may remember when Hussein was captured, tried, and hung on television. The butcher of Baghdad, murderer of upwards of 20 million people, getting his just rewards. A friend of mine called that afternoon, a girl who is a dear friend and was at the time learning about God, nearly in tears with an impossible question: "Could Hussein have found God?" She had been watching, and as his body hung there, she felt compassion for him. Didn't he deserve mercy, like we all do? What if someone had told him about God's mercy while he was awaiting trial, and he had sought God? Would God have had mercy on him? Yes, he would have. Can you swallow that? Can you wrap your mind around the fact that God would have mercy on Hitler? Mussolini? Manson?

Me?

It's hard for me. It's hard to understand God's mercy on those people. It's even harder to understand his mercy for me. I know my darkest thoughts.

--------------------------------------

His father was a drinker
And his mother cried in bed
Folding John Wayne's T-shirts
When the swingset hit his head
The neighbors they adored him
For his humor and his conversation
Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things
Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God

Are you one of them?

He dressed up like a clown for them
With his face paint white and red
And on his best behavior
In a dark room on the bed he kissed them all
He'd kill ten thousand people
With a sleight of his hand
Running far, running fast to the dead
He took off all their clothes for them
He put a cloth on their lips
Quiet hands, quiet kiss
On the mouth

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

-John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (Sufjan Stevens)

6 comments:

Kristen said...

"God loves me that much, that I deserve His fist, and I get His heart." You nailed it. What a beautiful, eloquent post. I struggle with the same thing - wanting retribution, wanting people who have hurt me to feel what I feel, wanting some sort of satisfaction when I've been wronged. But, like you said, that's not up to me. We can only go through life trying and failing and trying again to live in the likeness of God, knowing that His mercy--for all of us--is perfect and unfailing. Hugs, Bea. (ps - ending the post with that particular Sufjan song is perfection. Like gum.)

Jo said...

Wow. What a beautifully crafted (and quite grown up) post. Man oh man do I miss you.

Next time you come to town, we'll go out for Mexican and margaritas and you can check out the creepy mannequin in the store front for yourself. What the what?

Dena said...

Wow....I feel like I know a whole new side of you. Thanks for the honesty/ transparency. I love the part about justice being for the guilty too...and that perfect justice comes from God...very well written.

David McCune said...

Looks like something was bubbling up inside of you. It's funny - I've been having this fairness vs justice conversation recently as well. A lot of my professors are like Jeff - "fair" is a cuss in their house.

Soooo - we gots to hang out eh?

cami said...

I've known this about you for a long time, and I'm super glad that you've learned it about yourself. I hope that it's not a short term realization, but a realm of thought you apply to your past, present, and future.

Anonymous said...

Patrick
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You are one of the most merciful people I have ever met. Thankfully the entire task is not left to us in the end.

My thoughts on Sadam was knowing for a fact where he was going. He looked broken and scared - so I think he knew where he was going too. A person that terrified a nation of people, in my opinion at that final moment knew that it never paid off. I felt compassion becasue he had the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and I doubt he ever did and therefore, he paid for it in the end.

I never fully understood God's love until I became a mother. At no point EVER will I ever not love my children. EVER. I say that with so much emphasis...EVER. Do they do things wrong, yes, will they mess up, yes, will they test my love, yes. However, they are a part of me (as we are of God) and therefore will always, no matter what, 100%, forever have my love.