Saw Brokeback Mountain today, a good movie (unlike the other major Best Picture contender, Crash). Among other things, it taught me a tiny bit of compassion. I keep having to be reminded that people aren’t “the way they are” by accident. A stronger lesson came on the way home, when I asked my passenger, “How do you like your mom?” After some brush-offs, he finally addmitted that, “I don’t know… as long as I’ve known her she’s been a terrible mother. But it’s better than living with my dad.” As someone who grew up in a close-knit, loving family, this reality always surprises me, though it shouldn’t. It explains a lot, as might a lifetime of derision for being fat, frustration over not living up to parents’ dreams, low self-esteem over being unintelligent, identity confusion from witnessing dozens of unhealthy romantic relationships, sexual or physical abuse, humiliation in school over having unusual tastes, disappointment that life doesn’t work as it does in the movies, shame for a body that doesn’t live up to the ideal seen on television, a chemically altered brain due to drug addiction, contempt for inauthentic religious upbringing, poor parental models of rage or fear or whatever, a loss of passion from constant failure, and a billion other possibilities. People are mean or withdrawn or ineffective or depressed or overstressed or self-hating or uncompassionate or insecure or ignorant or arrogant because of these things, not because they knowingly choose to be. Nobody loved them enough to convince them they could feel and be different. Why? Because they have many of these problems, too! Indeed, it’s a marvel every person on the planet isn’t hopelessly lost. In fact, it’s a miracle: the grace of God.

So how can we possibly begin to heal such a hurting, damaged world? The answers will not surprise you: love and truth. The practical application of those in every day life is much more complicated, and beyond the scope of this post. But I must remember them. And, I have to remember that they are the keys to heal my hurting, damaged self, too.

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