“Who hurt you?” the boy asked his friend, who had been brutalized. The description was given, and a fountain of hate and anger erupts in a young heart. Seizing a weapon, the boy stalks the night in search of anyone, ANYONE, who looks like the perpetrator. He must defend his friend. His tribe. He seeks…a black man to beat into the ground, the flames of anger and fear consuming morality and reason.
And many years later, Liam Neeson admits that he did this. Triggering fear and anger in others. Especially those who have felt such emotions themselves, and are ashamed.
There is no question that his internal dialogue would have been racist as hell. None. But the man who ADMITS this behavior soberly and with sorrow, is precisely the sort of human being I love.
Is there anyone who hasn’t had loathsome self-talk? Cursed your parents? Wanted to hurt the driver who cut us off on the freeway? Wanted OUT of a relationship, with venomous self-talk about “that person”?
So if the attacker had been a Brit. Or a Chinese, or a Frenchman. Or from a rival school. Or is a fan of the other team. How about voters for the other candidate? The “tribal” thing clicks in: “one of theirs attacked one of ours. Even the score!”
It’s the Hatfields and McCoys, killing each other for generations over a wandering pig. “Those” Hatfields. “Those” McCoys. Hate them because they are who they are.
If you can honestly say that you’ve never had such a thought, never “othered” someone and wanted to do them wrong, never had a family member or friend hurt by a “them” and gone red-hearted and hungry for payback…then it is legitimate for you to, perhaps, fail to grasp how basic and human this is, how honest and mature Neeson is being to admit that this happened.
Isn’t this what we want? Don’t we NEED people who look at their own earlier behavior and distance themselves? Learn from who they were? How about people able to look at social history and do the same: “my parents did this. It was wrong. Terribly wrong. I will not be a part of this.”
If you defend the behavior, the sin is yours. Confession is the road to awakening, the path to healing. EVERYONE NEEDS FORGIVENESS. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” a believer might well put it.
And this is more than any single spiritual tradition: you find this thought EVERYWHERE.
Christianity says “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Buddhism says: “The faults of others we see easily; our own are very difficult to see.”
Sikhism says: “Those who quarrel with others, instead of quarreling with their own hearts, waste their lives.”
By the way, IMO it is a waste of time to try to determine where this principle originated, as if there was some sublime enlightened being who saw something ONCE which then spread around the world. No. This is common folk wisdom. Observable truth. There was no original thought. It was just something which, if one lives long enough…you see everywhere in action.
If we pillory people for admitting past errors, all we do is discourage people from honesty, from self-reflection, and ultimately from growth. And because none of US are free from sin, from evil, from the horrid thought or deed, ultimately we define ourselves as twisted things, unworthy of redemption or love.
We become horrors. Pale shadows lurching through our own purgatory, seeking not to lift ourselves up but to drag others down into our own misery. We are the zombies, the were-creatures, the vampires, the cannibal killers.
Inability to love and forgive ourselves, and then extend that humanity to others, is one of the doors to hell.
I say that I am horrified by what happened to his friend, and also by his reflexive urge for vengeance. And proud of a man strong enough to risk his public image by revealing a private misery.
Isn’t THAT what we want? To cleanse the wounds so that they can heal? Should we expect a perfection that cannot exist? Or ask people to lie about their weakness? We talk about “toxic” behavior. Aren’t WE creating it with our lack of forgiveness, even to those who humble themselves?
If it is not safe to be weak…we pretend to be strong.
Again, if we do that to others, can we possibly avoid doing it to ourselves? Our children? When Jason mouths off to me at night, running to his room and slamming the door, do you think I don’t know he’s waiting to see my face in the morning? Do I forgive? Do I understand he’s doing the best he can? Does he get another chance at being a loving being, or must he carry the rock of his sins upon his back, until he is so bent he cannot stand up at all and joins those crawling in the gutter?
Do we not ultimately condemn all mankind if we walk that path?
Anyone who knows my martial background knows I take no shit from anyone. NO one lays a hand on me or my family. But that said…I choose forgiveness, and love. And feeling that the man who can admit such a thing is PRECISELY the sort of man I’d want as a friend and brother, who I would trust to watch my children as I watched his, or watch my back in an alley fight.
Condemn him only if you believe you have never had such thoughts. And if you are such an angel…? I believe you will see the soul within the sinner, and forgive.