Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Hardest Boy to Love

The news snaked my way as I slept, oblivious for a few hours to the turmoil happening several miles down. Then day came, then light. The weight of what happened lurched in like a tide, wave by wave, each one a little larger. By lunchtime I had the full picture, or at least as full as it would ever get. Someone I love deeply had been hurt and in those early moments in my mind, there was hell to pay. I sucked hard on the thought of retribution, let it linger in my mouth. I was surprised by its sweetness.

It was instinctive and it seemed, fleetingly, like the best gift I could give - that flaming arrow of shared outrage shooting straight from me to her.

I'm not as good at blame as I used to be and I've seen too much of life lately to think for a second that we aren't all scrubbing the same stains. I've seen enough to believe that casting the first stone isn't just a bad idea in parable or in theory.

But how could I ever love that boy?

I know him, just barely. I've tried at every turn to cast him in the best possible light, and he doesn't make it easy. Hadn't I done my part? Can't there be an eventual end to grace? Is everything exempt from the thick stroke of a hard line?

Without warning or invitation, Father Boyle's words slid hard across the floor of my heart, waiting for me to decide.

Isn't the highest honing of compassion that which is hospitable to victim and victimizer both?... Dante speaks of having compassion for the damned. We need not feel soft on crime if we see this kind of compassion as its highest calibration. Jesus says if you love those who love you, big wow (which I believe is the original Greek). He doesn't suggest that we cease to love those who love us when he nudges us to love our enemies. Nor does Jesus think the harder thing is the better thing. He knows it's just the harder thing. But to love the enemy and to find some spaciousness for the victimizer, as well as the victim, resembles more of the expansive compassion of God. That's why you do it.     - Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart

I tried to pat his words on the head and keep on walking, but they followed me around until I accepted their truth.

There is no one right among us.
Justice and mercy don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Rage is not the best I have to offer.

The blind fury has faded but my heart still winces for her and I can't say I've found love yet.

I want justice for him. I want him locked up and away. I want him to lose something, to hurt for something.

I want peace for her, wisdom for her. I want her to wake tomorrow with the brand-new understanding of her own self-worth cast over her like a shawl. 

I want to fix her broken places and I want to do the same for his, but those places are well out of my reach and I've never even managed to fix myself.

 Healing is not in my jurisdiction and neither is judgment.

But love I can do, or at least I can try.


  1. Thank you. This is a hard one to accept & practice. When someone I love is hurt by another, I want to retaliate. Especially when the hurting soul is my child...

  2. Oh Shannan,

    "Healing is not in my jurisdiction and neither is judgment." This hits personal and strikes deep. I'm praying right now for her, and for him, and for you...and yes, for the rest of us.

  3. Life is just so hard sometimes.

  4. It's in these dark places that Jesus shines brightest. Hugs.

  5. Ouch. This is a hard one.

    I struggle with this quite a bit.

    I do think that there is karma, so for every action is a reaction. I don't think I want people to "pay" necessarily, but I do think there need to be repercussions for awful behaviors.




  6. Your writing style, phrasing, and word choice amazes and humbles me. We are "all scrubbing the same stains." Wow. "Tried to pat his words on the head and keep on walking" Double wow. Your writing gets you and the rest of us who read you to the truth. And that's the most powerful part. The truth. With heart. Amen.

  7. Beautiful. I can hear the echos of the Savior in this post. He spoke softly to my heart through your words. Love is truly our highest, and sometimes most difficult, calling.

  8. Wow.......what a hard, beautiful truth and reality!

  9. Beautifully written and thought provoking. Thank you.

  10. gah I love you and your heart (and Father G's words of course) . . . praying for you guys!

  11. Hey Shannon, I faithfully read your blog and so love how you are stretching my idea of service, love, finances. My son is in LA this week on spring break doing mission work with Father Gregory Boyle at Homeboy Industries. It was great to read his quote and your writings for a new perspective. This is messy stuff, but that's what we're called to do.

    1. No wayyyyyyyyyyyy! That is awesome. I'm jealous! :)

  12. My heart aches for the one you love…..and the one you are trying to love despite his sins.
    The hardest kind of love. oy.
    Speaking of love, have I mentioned how I love how you put these things into words?

  13. Tattoos is the best book ever. It wrecked me in so many ways. Love how it is working through your heart and words in this post.

  14. Beautiful.period.:) You are always making me see a different perspective to everyday things - thank you!!

  15. Beautifully written and so honest. I copied your quote "Healing is not in my jurisdiction and neither is judgment" for a future reminder for myself.

  16. Praying for you all today- you have voiced what so many of us have had to experience and feel...and the awful hard truth that it is not our place to shoot that flaming arrow or cast that stone, no matter how much we want to.

  17. You know, I teach fourth-grade religious education and we talk about this issue all.the.time. It is so hard to love in the way that Jesus told us to love. Anger and judging are so much easier.
    My prayers are with you and your loved ones.

  18. I have the chills. You make me see so much, love reading your blog everyday I look forward to it, sometimes it makes me cry, laugh and sometimes both, but i love it!! Your amazing<3

  19. I can imagine you patting its little head.
    Then it calls back, "Hey, you! Where you think YOU'RE goin' so fast?"

    You make me smile.

  20. The hardest things to offer are the ones most important, most needed. Praying right this moment for you all.