The Nazis had the nightmares I wouldn’t want. History tells us that Holocaust survivors fared much better psychologically, after WWII, than did their torturers. When everything was tallied up, the people who did the damage (Nazi prison camp workers) went crazier (FAR crazier) than the prisoners they damaged. As I get older, this makes more and more sense to me.
The victim of something horrible lives with it the rest of their lives. But that life can filled with good will and recovery and people helping to heal them. The perpetrator, on the other hand, has to live with what they’ve DONE for the rest of their life. They can’t take it back or mend it in any way. It will haunt them until their final breath. They might make a real change and spend the rest of their lives trying to atone for their actions. But they will always know …deep in their heart of hearts …that they are capable of something horrific – something unthinkable. And I don’t know how a person can sleep with that knowledge.
I think this is the very reason Jesus taught us to pray for those who do us harm. Because although we might be harmed, THEY are going to live in a kind of hell for the rest of their lives. And they, too …are someone’s child.
I’ve checked the news story several times, from several sources. Because I don’t want it to be true. I want it to be a hoax. There HAVE been several hoaxes played on the news media, as of late. Four white guys didn’t actually taunt and abuse a Muslim woman on the subway, in NYC, chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” That didn’t happen. She made it up. We’ve seen two or three of these. People are allowing the narratives of this election to turn them into things their mothers wouldn’t approve of. At least I hope their mothers wouldn’t approve of them.
But the story that has shaken me, for personal reasons, is the face book live event of the four teenagers in Chicago, torturing a young man with special needs. I can’t bring myself to watch it. But apparently it DID happen and the four are being arrested. And my heart is heavy.
My daughter has a severe disability …a mountain-like challenge (if you will). And fathers and mothers of people with those types of conditions learn to get VERY protective, VERY fast. I know all too well how vulnerable she is in this world. Of all the things that keep me from sleeping at night …that fact is at the top of the list.
I’ve been in rooms with other fathers of special needs children (particularly daughters) where we have descended into all the scenarios we’ve come up with on what we would do to someone who raped or tortured or abused our daughters. It’s not pretty.
See, when you live with a true, helpless innocent, the idea of someone taking advantage of them sends you into a rage you don’t want to believe you’re capable of. Suddenly, you have creatively murderous thoughts you cannot explain. And your brain becomes a debating stage for situational ethics. It’s actually quite maddening.
But most people stop short of their darker selves.
And the one thing I know is that if someone did horrible harm to my daughter, THEY would have to live with the worst of it. If she survived, she would …well …survive. But the one who did harm? I wonder.
As much as I want to throw up thinking about those four young people torturing that poor kid. My next thought is of them. They have a lot of life left to live. And they will change. They will soften as they age. And one day they will have to reconcile what they’ve done and square it with their own humanity. Every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day they will have to live with the fact that they tortured someone innocent and helpless. And they did it willingly.
And so I pray for this young man with special needs. I pray for his parents, that they can find ways to recover without losing their minds.
But I also pray for these four, young perpetrators. Their hell is actually deeper and darker in the long run. They know something about themselves none of us want to know about ourselves. They know that they might well be beyond repair. They have to look at their own hands …every morning …and know what those hands have done. They will have to look at themselves in the mirror and know that they cannot climb out of their own skin.
I pray that when the realization of all of this finally hits them …they can find some corner of peace, somewhere in the dark cell of their existence. Because it WILL be dark and haunting.
I pray that God will forgive them. And I pray the young man and his family might one day forgive them.
Because forgiving THEMSELVES might just be impossible.