The Coastal Post - October, 1999

What Judgment Ye Mete

By Guy W. Meyer

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged." Matthew 7:1

In my brain there sits a judge. He tells me what actions and attitudes are wrong and inappropriate and which are acceptable, even commendable. Some call him a "conscience" or a "censor." Sometimes the judge tells me what others are doing or thinking, rightly or wrongly.

Right now I am listening to him pass judgment on me that is, on my past.

If I want to open an unpleasant can of worms, I can think back on numerous past actions of which I am not proud, or even deeply ashamed. I could, if I wanted, brand myself with the epithets of those who do such things, or are neglectful liar, thief, womanizer, etc.

But then I can remember past deeds of mine which were commendable, occasionally praiseworthy. What lovely titles I could bestow on some of these! Alas, my judge refuses to grant me the title of "angel" or "hero." Nor does he condemn me to wear a shameful epithet. He lets me be "Myself."

From what I know of my acquaintances, they are just human beings, with a mixture of good and bad. Some shine especially brightly with certain admirable qualities, while others are dulled by their primary expressions of annoying, even shameful traits. All are thoroughly human. At the same time I have noticed that if a person performs just one outstandingly heroic deed, has a beautiful voice, a title, or attractive physique, most (not all) people tend to put that person on a pedestal admiring, acclaiming.

On the other hand, one instance of a sensational robbery, sexual peccadillo, murder, or other heinous offense, and most people will identify the perpetrator with that particular act. The person is then termed a thief, adulterer, murderer, terrorist, heretic, and must be dealt with as such not as a human being.

We (the majority) make little or no attempt to understand the accused. Why should we? All we need to know is whether he is guilty or innocent. If guilty, let the punishment fit the crime. It's simple. End of story.

Occasionally news leaks out of an offender's past life.

A child grows up in a home with a single mother who treated her many problems with the forgetfulness of liquor and drugs. One live-in boyfriend after another came, men who were frequently not only addicted but violent. The child's whole life was trying to survive eating when he could find food, stealing for things he needed. He was the constant butt of slaps, punches, put-downs, and curses. His mother's screams and struggles, also, were not rare.

This was the world of his childhood, coloring his attitude and responses toward the outside world. Reaching adulthood he finally reached the size and strength that enabled him to imitate the adults he got to know too well. Violence came as naturally to him as thoughtfulness would come to one reared in a loving, supportive family.

At some point this victim of years of abuse and violence, having built his own small record of ruthless grasping and violence, takes the public stage in a major act of destruction and murder.

The put-downs of his childhood are now capped by the hatred of us, the decent majority.

We brand him with the epithet "murderer." Content with our own innocence, we demand revenge punishment by death! Only this will satisfy our judgment.

Walking in his shoes, how might you or I end up? How can we judge the whole person if we have not tried to see as he sees, feel as he feels? What experiences, values, perceptions, desires, and frustrations have combined to motivate the condemned to commit the deed?

Is it important for us to know these things? Only so can we compare the life experiences of similar offenders, discover common threads, and make appropriate social adjustments. While holding offenders from opportunities to further harm people, we can learn how to change their life paths from destructive to caring.

Equally, if not more important, by understanding, we can save ourselves from losing our souls, our integrity, in a lynch mob. Humans lose their humanity in the mob. They see themselves as judge, jury, and executioner-judging another but not themselves.

Those who have let themselves become enraged, and hate, because a fellow human has offended them, act together as a single wild beast. Not only does the mob hate those accused of murder or adultery, but mobs have attacked the innocent, even those judged by history as "Great Souls."

Hear the cry of "Kill the nigger," "Burn her alive" (Joan of Arc) (elderly women of Salem), "Kill" (the Jews) (Capitalists) (Communists) (Royalists) (Heretics) (Non-believers). "Hang!" "Death Penalty!" "Impeach!" "Punish!" "Crucify Him!"

The truly human looks and cares for the human in others, seeks to straighten what is warped, to heal where there is pain, to "overcome evil with good."

Coastal Post Home Page