Home » Society » Deadly Compassion: When Suffering Trumps Discipleship

Deadly Compassion: When Suffering Trumps Discipleship

I’ve been reading of late, a lot of viral posts on social media in which a person accuses pastors and churches, teachers and schools, politicians, police, government agencies and the like of wrongdoing because they show “insensitivity” to “X” by defending some right, holding to some standard, enforcing some rule, or recognizing some achievement.

One woman criticizes the church’s fixation on virginity and sexual purity before marriage, because sexual purity is more than physical virginity (thus we’ve all already lost it) and it makes those who have stumbled physically feel bad.[1]

A school cancels all future father-daughter dances because some girl didn’t have a father to take her and felt “left out.”[2]

Schools are being castigated for having honors dinners, with many canceling them to avoid “hurt feelings” or exchanging them in favor of more “inclusive” events.[3]

A UK reporter writes a story decrying good families because some families AREN’T good and kids in those families feel bad about that and will perform worse in life than kids from good homes.[4]

I’ve read dozens of articles this week calling for churches to either stop recognizing mothers on Mother’s day, or to burden their Mother’s Day recognition with caveats that give special nods to all those hurting people who have a tenuous relationship with Mother’s Day because of infertility, miscarriage, abortion, loss of a mother, uncertainty over their exact status given some social complication with their emotional vs. biological connection to children, out of wedlock births, being yet unmarried, or  because they had crappy mothers. You see, some women feel bad when we celebrate mothers and motherhood, so everything must yield to their pain.[5]

People are rioting and burning down their neighborhoods and we say, “They are hurting,” “They feel oppressed,” “Let them loot, it’s only property.”[6] “Their people were once enslaved by whites, they have a right to be angry against America and riot.” We justify violent and destructive behavior (indeed, self-destructive behavior) because someone has this feeling, this suffering, this pain.[7]

These are diverse issues, but they have a common core (No, not THAT Common Core). In our society, we are becoming a nation who believes that emotional pain trumps all. Making someone feel bad is the worst (and for some, the only) personal sin.

We think that the best way to deal with emotional suffering is to coddle it, declaring every feeling legitimate and every impulse to action spurred on by emotional pain excusable (unless you are a white male). We imagine that the best thing we can do is to make room for every feeling of loss, failure, trauma, injustice, rejection, unmet desire, etc… To make room for it, we must clear everything out of its path, like duty, discipline, moral and ethical standards, social responsibility, work ethic, professionalism, law and the like so that our emotional issues can be fully vetted by society, condoned by the church, and spot-lighted at every event.

We are not even permitted to speak a word against those who have expressed emotional pain… they are, by dint of having emotional pain, put beyond the reach of logic, reason, law and discipline. To even attempt to speak anything into the life of the hurting save validation and sympathy is deemed criminally insensitive.

Discipleship, however, demands a confrontation of our worst features, like envy, jealousy, contempt, pride, self-absorption, selfishness, self-pity, greed, so on and so on and so on… and physical and emotional pain are two of the greatest tools for making a person self-absorbed.

I do care about the suffering, and want to help them… but the question we must ask is, “How do we BEST help the hurting?”

Is compassion without limits the best solution? Are the suffering helped by having all social responsibility for their actions removed from them? Are the emotionally scarred best helped by making them and their pain the center of attention at every event? Should we tear down the strong and successful so that those who have weakness and failure aren’t provoked to envy, jealousy, and resentment… so that everyone can be made artificially equal?

I say, no. These are not helpful routes.

African American Political Philosopher and Economist, Thomas Sowell, recently responded to the riots in Baltimore in an article titled “The Inconvenient Truth About Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown,” saying,

“The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just an excuse for inexcusable behavior in the ghettos. In a larger sense, it is an evasion of responsibility for the disastrous consequences of the prevailing social vision of our times, and the political policies based on that vision, over the past half century… Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s….You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization — including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain — without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large.”

Neither the chain of events that led to suffering, nor the fact of suffering exempts anyone from growing as a person or from being held accountable to the rules of society. To excuse the worst elements of our natures because we feel bad for people in their pain, or imagine that they, given their pain or past, have no other options than to feel how they feel and to do what they do is the most destructive form of “compassion.”

True compassion sees the pain and chooses paths of help that allow a person to move beyond it, to find peace and productivity within it. This doesn’t illegitimize the pain, but it does something far more important for a person than to allow their pain to destroy them, their relationships, and their chance at future productivity and happiness; it empowers them to be the best version of themselves.

[1]My response to this article is far more complex than this; I will post a richer assessment and reply later.  https://adrawofthecurtains.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/losing-and-finding-purity/

[2] http://articles.kwch.com/2012-09-18/father-daughter-dance_33932908

[3] http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/21724149/2013/03/19/principal-cancels-honors-night-in-ipswich; http://www.texomashomepage.com/story/d/story/school-cancels-honor-night-might-hurt-students-fee/38151/hWVaDz23kUKQmVuzNpOZTQ; http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/02/04/schools-exclusive-pizza-dance-party-for-straight-students-reportedly-questioned/

[4]  http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058

[5] http://timewarpwife.com/open-letter-pastors-non-mom-speaks-mothers-day/

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6L1PIpmCBSA

[7] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/28/1380944/-The-Dominant-White-Response-to-Baltimore-Shows-Why-Black-Residents-are-Justified-in-their-Anger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: