Feeling like a victim is tricky business. To me, it can go hand in hand with a sense of entitlement. After all, If you’ve been treated unfairly, which is pretty much the basic definition of being a victim, it’s easy to feel that somebody owes you. Somebody ought to do something to tip the scales back the other way and give you more than your fair share. That may or may not be right or even fair, in itself. But, when you truly feel wronged, with little recourse, it can be very much a challenge to let go of that sense of victimization and self-righteous anger. And they do need to go. Otherwise, you’re stuck being a victim who’s helpless to make life any better. Perpetual victims don’t have the power to fix things, to move on with life, in a healthy way.
That being said, I have a strong reaction to the issue of violence against women, for personal reasons which aren’t relevant at this point. Therefore, the current news about Oscar Pistorius shooting his girlfriend to death in the dark of night has strongly caught my attention. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. Closely following this story is not exactly a guilty pleasure, because it does not harm me to be current on the news. It’s more my reaction to the events, or how much time I spend reading about it, looking for updates, or thinking about it, that could be detrimental to me. Time to explore that.
The main facts of the case are indisputable: He shot her three times, and she is dead. Whether he meant to use deadly force against her or, as is his contention, against a possible intruder, it was still intentional. He meant to kill whoever was in there, without giving them a chance at self-defense or escape. That much is completely obvious. The other scenario that seems plausible, beyond the mistaken identity claim, is that the two had an altercation, he became enraged, she tried to get away (remember, he stated the bedroom door was locked) and he shot her in cold blood, knowing full well it was she who was screaming and dying inside that small box of a room.
My husband and I have often discussed the subject of being judgmental. “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, is a directive I believe we ought to take seriously. At the same, time, I have a brain, and believe that using it to have discernment and wisdom and judgment is also a God-given imperative. If judging means having a sense of whether an action or behavior is right or wrong, I suppose one way to approach it is to use my sense of judgment only when considering my own actions, . The rule would therefore be, I can judge myself and my choices, but ought to use only discernment regarding other people and their behavior. As an example, let’s say that a woman, who happens to be my friend, has the reputation of being a heavy drinker. Without making a judgment about the truth of that rumor, or about the character of the person in question, I could use my discernment to decide that it would be unwise to have that person drive me home after a party, and make other arrangements.
Applying this stance to the Pistorius case, making no judgments about him, the logical answer is, I can wait for the legal process to run its course. Make no mistake, I do have my own opinions about the strength of the prosecution’s case, the validity of Pistorius’ affidavit, what evidence might matter, whether he should be allowed out on bail and so many, many other issues. So what? I’m not part of the case, not privy to what’s actually going on, and I’m basing my opinions on news reporting, which has its own problems. Also, whether or not I have much faith in the legal and judicial process doesn’t particularly matter. First, because it’s all we’ve got and second, because I also believe the Biblical promise, “Justice is mine, saith the Lord.” What goes around, comes around, you reap what you sow and you get back the vibes you send out. This I firmly do believe. Now, I may not be too happy about the timing of it all, but that’s not my job. The timing, that is. Being happy, or taking responsibility for my own happiness, my own moods and thoughts and actions and life, that is most decidedly my job. Which brings us to my next point about justice.
While in the shower this morning, my husband had an inspired thought. As he explained it to me, we are asked to refrain from judging others, not only because it’s unfair to them, but also because it is actively harmful to us. We are taking on a burden, an actual weight on our souls, which does not need to be there. Which should not be there. We are needlessly struggling with burdens we are not meant to have.
I can see and appreciate the truth of that. But the question then follows, if we ought not to react to the Pistorius murder case with judgment, what can we do? What is a reaction that honors our sense of outrage at the loss of life, yet protects us from the damage of becoming judgmental? This is where I struggle. Since violence against women is a hot-button for me, my primal response to the murder of a woman is that someone must pay, must suffer at least as much as she did. As hard as it is to admit, that’s just not my call to make. What am I left with? Outrage can only take me so far. It changes nothing about the crime, nor does it in any way begin to alleviate the grief of those left behind, . Evidently, it’s not doing much to prevent further violence, either. Finally, too much anger can be harmful to me, on a very real, cellular level. Where can I go from here?
When I heard that Pistorius kept shaking and crying in court, breaking down so deeply that the judge had to call on him to compose himself before things could proceed, I reacted with deep skepticism. Truth be told, I actually found the picture repellant, imagining he was just trying to act the part of the grieving boyfriend, playing the sympathy card. But the reality is, I have no way of knowing what’s in the man’s head or in his heart. And I never will.
But I realized this: His life, the one he’s had, is over. His accomplishments in the Olympics, the strides he might have made in advancing the cause of people with disabilities, his goals for future accomplishments, those are, in a muzzle flash, all for naught. His fame has turned to infamy and now his athletic skills and beautiful homes, his millions in the bank, and potential future earnings, they all are worthless, except to pay his lawyers. Even if he’s found guilty of a lesser charge, he will likely spend many years in the prison system of South Africa. NOT a fate to look forward to.
Supposing, by some miracle, he is let go, set free, what could there be left for him? No sponsor will touch him, and neither will any woman with an ounce of sense. He is, I imagine, at high risk of either suicide or homicide. He claims to have received death threats before this. Imagine what might occur in the future. With those four shots, he ended not only his girlfriend’s life, but also forever changed his own. In short, by taking a small peek at life from his perspective, by having a bit of compassion for him, as a human being, I can begin to let go of the rage, and to regain some sense of perspective.
It’s very freeing to not feel helplessly angry, yet again, at a woman dying at the hands of a man who claims to love her. It doesn’t change the outcome for her. But it does begin to change me. It allows me to trust the Source of justice, to regain some inner peace and to again let my light shine, instead of living under a cloud of discontent at the general state of the world. With that renewed energy, I can move forward and do what I can to prevent future violence, in whatever manner I choose. But I can now act and live from a place of peace within, from strength, not brittle anger and bitterness.