Forgiveness, Judgement, and Outrage

I had to look up why it was that Kevin Hart stepped away from hosting the Oscars. I hadn’t been aware of the story as it was unfolding. Once I caught up a bit, I assumed the comments in question had been made recently, but then I discovered they were years old, that he’d since apologized for them, and that he had intentionally stopped making jokes at that particular group’s expense.

As a minority myself, I am all for inclusivity and sensitivity. Everyone at the table should have a voice, and everyone who wants a seat at the table should have the opportunity to get there. However, it seems to me that there are two mutually exclusive trends vying for dominance in American society—or at least on social media, which I suppose is what passes for society these days. On the one hand, there is this lioness level of defense declaring that all choices are valid and must be respected—and that no one is permitted to pass judgement on anyone else. If you want to change your name to something unconventional; if you want to live a polyamorous lifestyle; if you have a gender identity or sexual orientation that some find confusing, sinful, or otherwise bothersome; or if you claim to need a turkey, peacock, or partridge in a pear tree as your emotional support animal, all of these are to not just be tolerated, but embraced, accommodated, and never disparaged by society.

On the other hand, while one faction actively asserts that all groups and individuals are entitled to live according to their values and identities, there also seems to be a very vocal contingency throwing judgement and outrage at anyone who appears to be judging. But what if your group or identity has outlined parameters for right and wrong and certain acts fall on the side of wrong? Are you supposed to pretend that isn’t the case? Are you supposed to deny what your religion says? If everyone is free to be who they are, where is the freedom for the religious, the sheltered, the innocently ignorant as well as the homophobes and the bigots?

I wish everyone would choose love and kindness and a genuine desire to understand differences and extend compassion over divides instead of hatred, outrage, or violence. However, I also believe everyone is entitled to their opinions and feelings—even if they run counter to social norms, my own, or those of the most popular celebrities—even if they are inconvenient or distasteful to some, most, or almost all of society. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You’re allowed to be racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, shortsighted, incendiary, or uniformed. What you’re not allowed to do is to weaponize your ignorance, beliefs, or biases with discrimination or violence or the breaking of any laws.

That being said, I find some of the social media crucifixions of certain celebrities troubling. If a person is doing or saying things that an individual or a group finds hurtful, it should be brought to that person’s attention without malice. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Assume ignorance is the culprit and speak up as a means of making the problem known. Hopefully the offending person will care enough about the group or individual to make an effort to understand the pain he or she is causing, apologize for it, and seek to cease reopening that wound in the future. Those who have been offended are not obligated to forget or forgive (unless they’re Christian), but they should stop trying to ignite the indignation of the masses over something that has been apologized for and which someone has promised to say or do no more. 

Now, if the offending party is knowingly and callously being hurtful, all bets are off. But mistakes shouldn’t be shackles. We must leave room for growth. I believe in consequences, but as a Christian I am also compelled to forgiveness. Now forgiveness does not mean that our relationship goes unaltered. It does not mean that you have my trust. What I hope it means is that I’m giving you the opportunity to prove you’ve heard my concerns, taken them into consideration, and will consciously seek to offend me no more. We may never be close (or as close) again, but I can then find some closure for my outrage or pain.

There has to be a point at which we forgive a person’s past missteps if they have denounced and distanced themselves from what was done or said. Otherwise, we’re all damned. No one is perfect. We all have unfair biases, unwarranted fears, and problematic feelings. We are all capable of offending language, insensitive actions, and hurting others unintentionally. Self-righteous indignation can only be hypocritical. I believe there was only ever one person in history on earth who loved everyone perfectly, and he endured a literal crucifixion to obtain forgiveness for all of humanity.

So let’s look for more common ground instead of more conflicts. Let’s not be reckless with our outrage. Rather than delighting in tearing others down for their mistakes, rather than policing everyone’s tones, words, pasts, and tweets, rather than judging others for making judgement calls, let’s try to truly love one another. I don’t have to agree with how you live to love you and believe you deserve the freedom to live that way (so far as it doesn’t hurt anyone). Similarly, you don’t have to like that I disagree with your lifestyle. But just as you’re free to make your choices, you should accept that I’m free to make mine. Who am I to impose my ideals on anyone else? Who am I to tell anyone else how to live? I mean, if you ask for my opinion, I’ll unapologetically give it. But I do not have license to act as though my mores are universal or obligatory.

We all believe we’re right, that’s why we do what we do. But to be sure you know how everything should be done requires a hyperdeveloped ego or chronic delusion. That’s why all I’m prepared to say is that I’m trying to live and treat others a certain way based on what I believe to be true. But I hope I never presume to tell others that they must follow suit.

Sociopaths aside, I don’t think anyone in the world is against all of humanity. I think we’re all doing the best we can with the unique mix of what we know, what we don’t know, the advantages we enjoy, and the disadvantages we endure. Problems arise when we make assumptions about what others should be capable of. Trouble follows when we try to tell someone else what to think, what to believe, how to feel, or how to act. Laws can only govern the latter—and (thankfully) a country with freedoms has limits on even that.

Morals are mercurial—changing with time, geography, and culture. The only everlasting and universal constant is love. I think a lot of problems would get solved if we all focused on that more. But remember: love, while good, is not always easy, comfortable, or popular.


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4–8a, 13


Bible open to 1 Corinthians 13

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:13

 

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