“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee speaks this timeless truth that is so simple that we often forget it. Atticus Finch illuminates his daughters innocent heart as it is left to be tainted in a far from perfect world, one that is full of racism and judgment. This is one of my absolute favorite quotes and has been on my mind lately. We live in a world that is so engulfed judgment that we don’t even realize when we are doing it.
One of my friends is an atheist. He is incredibly kind spirited. He is only 24, his dad died two years ago, and he lives by himself. He never complains, never feels sorry for himself. I am ashamed to say that I never paid much attention to him or his problems, and God forgive me, it is because I just assumed he did not care about anything. At the back of my mind there was something saying to me, “If he does not care about God or any god for that matter, how can he care about anything at all?” Shame on me. How could I be so heartless and ignorant? My heart broke for him. I could never have compassion for him because I never stopped long enough to consider what he had been through, what it felt like to be in his skin. Who was I to even think to pass judgment? God spoke very clearly to me, saying, ‘Have you already forgotten where I brought you from?’, ‘Have you already forgotten what it felt like when you were looked down upon because you were the odd-one out in the all-Christian school?’ If we cannot see the world through another perspective, how will we ever have sympathy? How will we ever have understanding? How will we ever have compassion?
Compassion is not the same as pity; pity still allows for our own feeling of moral superiority. Compassion is understanding that there is really no difference between the worst of sinners and ourselves. We are by nature a sinful people, and it is only the grace of God that keeps us from falling into our sin. It is almost terrifying to realize that the evil that drives people to the most perverted of sins exists in the depths of our own beings. In any given moment, whether Christian or not, it is solely God’s sovereign hand over us that prevents us from falling into sin. The most terrifying sin I know is my own because this is the sin that I have to deal with daily. We often build a vision of a god that will feed our flesh and tend to our earthly needs, and when a Christian falls into sin, rather than pointing to the evil that is in all man, we blame it on the hypocrisy of corrupted Christianity. When we judge Christians, we say, ‘Can you believe so-and-so did fill-in-the-blank, and they call themselves a Christian?!’, and for non-Christians “I can’t believe so-and-so did fill-in-the blank; that’s what happens when you don’t have God!” The same log in our eyes that blinds us from our own flaws and makes us so quick to judge those around us, also blinds us to the hurting world that is at our fingertips. But maybe if we could stop judging for just a moment, we would be able to see the pain around us. We would be able to see that we are really no different. We would be able to have compassion.
I am as every bit sinful, and I am as every bit fallible as the worst of sinners.
What lies in the depth of our hearts? Judgment or compassion?