An indiscretion. An affair. Neighbors whispered their surprise, their condemnation and their abhorrence of the situation, a virtual stoning.
It happened in my neighborhood. Although I’d heard other stories about married couples cheating, this was the first time I had encountered a situation where I knew all the players. To make matters worse, the cheater was someone my age, someone much like me, a friend.
I searched to find the descriptors for my emotions. Beyond initial shock, I could only come up with sadness.
I was almost troubled by my lack of angry reproach. Shouldn’t I feel more abhorrence for the sin? As a woman who values the eternal nature of families above everything, shouldn’t infidelity rock the foundations of my life. Here were these strangling hands of something terrible reaching close to my own circle? I began to think about all the people involved. How would I feel if I were in the shoes of betrayed one?
But then my thoughts turned as I imagined my friend. What if I were in the shoes of the betrayer? What if I were to ever make an unguarded choice that brought my own world crashing down?
We all have our vices, our human weaknesses, the “drugs” of the natural man that dangerously tempt us, be they power, money, attraction, control, cravings, or self-importance. We can all be blind. We all make bad judgements. Even the best people can let their weaknesses win. It’s easy to make a bad call, to cross a line, to do the wrong thing. Everyone is mortal. And while it’s easy to draw clear dark lines on paper life is very complicated and our choices are influenced by so many things past and present.
Do I not beg daily for mercy, require weekly atoning sacraments my own sins and failings? While my wrongs may be different, and the consequences of my wrongs tend more toward minor than catastrophic, am I really any better? I am not without sin and flaw.
I thought about people involved. Two families: husbands, wives, a handful of children. In the cul-de-sac symbolic scarlet letters were now sewn to their front doors. I thought of the acts of kindess done by these people, these were not the things now whispered of. It seemed all their virtues and goodness erased, their characters reduced to the singular label of indiscretion.
I thought of marriages dangling by tenuous strings, of spouses living with anger, betrayal, and sadness, trying to recover. The effects rippling through the years to come, in yet untold ways. I hoped so much for their healing. I thought of the accused, hurled into courts of public opinion, bearing the weight of gossip and judgment. Behind closed doors they are left to recover relationships smothering under the weight of shame and shattered trust. Bearing the load regret. All the work of their own hands. Truly pain enough. They did not need my judgment. This situation was not mine.
“Love they neighbor as thyself.”
It echoed in my ears. I had always applied this to kindness, but not so much to sin. I could not judge another for a sin or weakness different than my own. As I wondered what I do beg as the guilty one- what for my own human weaknesses?
I am left with nothing to cast, not a pebble.
How have you learned greater compassion? How has your life experience changed your perspective? How do we learn to put down our stones?