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Coffee with The Preacher

Wrestling with ‘compassion remorse’

When you’re using drugs and it gets bad, you blame everybody but yourself. — Tom Sizemore, www.TheFix.com

I was having my favorite drug of choice, dark roast Sumatra, with a man I’ll call The Preacher. We were in warmer climes, where we were surrounded by black people playing chess, typing on iPads and laptops, conversing over topics of the day, at Magic’s Starbucks in L.A. I was asking his spiritual tactical advice. 

I opened with: “Should you show mercy whether or not the recipient is grateful, or respects you as a human being?” 

“The short answer is yes,” he said. “On the vengeance is mine saith the Lawd, goes around, comes around tip.” Chuckling … “Them Klannish white folks givin’ you grief in Eugene? Drop that cross, brotha … But on the real, devil’s in the details, like Michel Martin says, tell me more.”

“Well,” I said, “I deal with people on both sides of the law: addicts, alcoholics, hopeless dope fiends, and dopeless hopefiends. Sometimes the seemingly law abiding ones are the worst. Its not like you can expect rational behavior from a crackhead, but permaspun crackheads with a steady jobs, be messin’ with me and mine. You can’t really say that you’re recovered until you take responsibility for what you have done — on the pipe, and the dry crackhead behavior you engage in off the pipe. You understand I’m not just talking about cocaine, but people who do whatever they can to not be fully, consciously, human.” 

“Isn’t it true there’s a developmental delay while you are using?” The Preacher asked. 

“One theory anyway,” I said.

“So you are expecting rational, responsible, self-aware adult behavior from a criminal addict, who sounds like he got rich parents, or other resources, lawyers, co-dependent co-workers and bosses, to shield him from the consequences of his behavior, so now he can play ‘straight’ in a government job like a school or juvenile justice, and ‘give back’ to kids like he used to be, or maybe still is on the DL, and you feel bad now, because you cut him slack then, and he’s still behaving badly in some way?” 

I asked him, “What would you do if an adult child on probation had shot one of your kids with a BB gun, slapped an ice cream cone out of a little girl’s hand, and while appearing fawningly faux contrite, later bragged about it.” 

“Is showing compassion, giving him the benefit of the doubt that he might turn his life around, the right thing?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Yes, you showed compassion for this racist white dude, regardless of whether he’s showing compassion, contrition or responsibility, then or now,” he said. “Whether or not he’d have done that for your black children, were the situations reversed. You’re just experiencing compassion remorse; you feel you’ve been taken advantage of.” 

Sighing, he added, “Ieshua tells us the adversaries show us how not to be. Give thanks that you know not to be like him, and your example shows how someday he might be better.”