Grieve Angry


The other week, a shooting took six lives and I thought, “That’s not too bad.” I immediately felt sick. Because this isn’t normal. It isn’t okay. And I don’t want to get numb, desensitized, detached, withdrawn. I don’t ever want to get over the anger and grief of how “normal” this has become—whether it’s thirty, six, or one.

It’s a national habit to look at the death toll, but shootings really destroy lives twice. At the hospital, we regularly receive GSW (gunshot wound) patients through the ER. Many survive. Sometimes, surviving is worse. The trauma of it. The nightmares. To witness such a thing is a lifelong wound. The death tolls are horrific, but the mental and emotional toll is just as destructive. I’ve been up close with GSW victims and families—and I can’t watch the news with neutral disinterest. I can’t watch movie violence the same way. I will never get the smell out of my nostrils. When you sit among people with bullet wounds, you see most political “dialogue” for what it really is: fear, cowardice, pomp, rationalizations, and self-aggrandizing, all which speak past the victims instead of for them. I hope I’m not doing the same thing. Please tell me if I am. Please tell me what I can do.

I don’t know if anything will change. Again. It seems hopeless. But I want to grieve angry. I don’t want to calm down. I want courage. And compassion. And champions who will make waves so that something will change. God, keep us loud. God, give us strength.

J.S.

I Don’t Feel Bad for the Bad Guy


[An angry post.]

You know, I’ve dealt with abusive, manipulative people nearly my entire life—and more and more, people want to show “empathy” for the abuser instead of the abused, and we’re too quick to explain away how much suffering that the abuser has actually caused.

One thing the movies get wrong is that they give the abuser some “depth” and “layers” and “multi-dimensionality.” Terrible villains are given backstories to justify their behavior and make them seem like “underdogs” who got dealt a bad hand. While this idea has some merit and it makes good movies, it also creates a harmful narrative where abusive people have a supposedly good reason to be abusive, or external factors are to blame, or you should feel really bad for them.

This completely leaves behind the abused person.

It’s as if abusive behavior can only be redeemed after the abuser sees how much suffering they’ve caused, and if that’s the cost to redeem an abuser, it’s too high of a price. Remorse shouldn’t be born at the expense of trauma.

I can see why the media would “feel bad” for a disgusting rapist and his future, because we’ve become trained in glorifying and empathizing with the bad guy. We offer way too much benefit-of-the-doubt. And yes, some people are just terrible. Not everyone has depth and layers and sad backstories. No, they’re not irredeemable, but we underestimate the detestable capacity for evil and we over-promote self-esteem (perhaps because we then must admit we’re also each capable of the same evil). We use words like “empathy” without also considering boundaries, safety, and trust. Good people get used up because they are fearfully obligated to a morally heightened, hyper-dramatic view of “love,” when it’s really just enabling. And some of us selfishly appear to have empathy to be awarded as outstanding citizens, when there’s neither an ounce of compassion for the abuser nor the abused.

In all this, we force the victim to take the “higher ground.” We trivialize and simplify the victim’s role to be the “bigger person” all the time.

But if we only place the impetus on the victim to forgive, to rise up, to heal, and to reconcile, then we’re not any better than the abuser. Doesn’t the victim have to be redeemed, too, from the pain that was caused? The abuser can certainly feel remorse, but are we going to ignore the remorse that the victim feels from both their pain and “blame”? The abuser can feel bad, but are we going to ignore how awful the victim feels from the actual wound?

It seems unfair to appeal to both sides when nothing about abuse is equal, and it must be on the abuser to pay for their crimes, to make reparations, and to be restricted unless they can prove otherwise that they can be trusted again.

I always want to hear “both sides of the story,” but in cases of obvious abuse, I’m not forfeiting justice out of some misguided sense of courtesy. Justice was already forfeited by the abuse. I must stand staunchly and stubbornly with the victim, and to do that, I must sit with them first, in their pain, not at my tempo but theirs, and to look evil in the eye with courage, unflinching at excuses and rationalizations, and to offer grace when it is no longer foolish, by the plumb line of wisdom and trust.
J.S.

Where Is Justice?

When horrible things happen, we instantly feel the brokenness of a fallen, hostile, upside-down world.

Something deep inside us cries out for justice, and it points to a deeper human truth about the way we are made.

We see a sad, stark reality in contrast with a perfect ideal.

Justice is all about righting the wrong and making sure everyone pays.  We don’t like to talk about that until we see the worst a human can do.

I don’t mean to use tragedy as a platform or talking point.  We can’t explain away everything as God’s Will or saying “it’s society’s fault.“  No one should offer a theological reason about how this has a “higher purpose,” because even if it did, we’d be pretentious to say so.

Simply: something has been wrong with the human race since the beginning of time, and we all know it.  We are free to say: this sucks, and it’s infuriating.

Continue reading “Where Is Justice?”

Quick To Fight, Quick To Forgive



When tragedy occurs, we are often too quick to fight or too quick to forgive.

When we are hasty to fight, we allow rage to blind our vision.  This is understandable, but unchecked will lead to bloodlust and xenophobia and too many assumptions of the facts. 

When we jump to forgiveness, we are trying to free our hearts of bitterness.  This is understandable, but unchecked will lead to a bypass of justice and become insensitive to the hurting.

There’s a time to be angry, to shake a fist, to attack evil and defend the weak.  It’s right to hate injustice.

There’s also a time to extend pardon, to pray for enemies, to hope for better and wipe the slate clean.  It’s how we rebuild for tomorrow.

God will finish this story both ways.  We don’t need to force one on the other.  If we try: we will forfeit both.  Only God can hold this equally in tension, and only He is righteously infuriated with a tender grace.

One day, this broken world will be made right.  God will unroll His love and justice on a people waiting for both, and the things that don’t make sense will be answered somehow. 

Until then: we fight.  Until then: we forgive.


— J.S.