I’ve been thinking a lot about Proverbs 24 lately; 17-20 reads something like this:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the wicked;
For there will be no prospect for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Sometimes life calls upon us to rise to the occasion. To speak up or act out in the face of oppression or wrongdoing. To answer the call to defend the defenseless or to protect those who most need it. But equally important is to think about the one we perceive to be wrong or evil, and to look upon them through the lens of loving kindness.
You see, everyone is someone’s baby. No matter their misgivings, each of us was brought into this world a precious spirit. Through the traumas and turmoil we experienced, we were then shaped into the version of ourselves that we present to the world as we grow.
What appears to be monstrous behavior typically comes from somewhere. It’s said that anger is sadness turned outwards. When someone is mean, it’s usually because they are hurting. When we learn to look past the behavior and start to appreciate what’s behind it, we create an opportunity to connect with another’s spirit, thereby elevating the collective consciousness.
Of course, this isn’t always possible or appropriate. Nor is everyone receptive to our loving kindness. Indeed in some situations, the best we can do is the best we can do. In those instances, however, I believe that we still have an obligation to do our best to move from a place of compassion. We do what needs to be done to proceed and and effect the best possible outcome. But that doesn’t mean we take pleasure in knocking another down.
By righteously rejoicing when our enemy falls, we fail to learn one of the pivotal lessons from the experience. We miss an opportunity to engage in our shared humanity. We send a message that we may not mean. And while in may feel good in the short term, in the long run we rarely will look back on our pettiness with pride. At least in my experience.
Someone once joked with me: Don’t take the high road, it’s lonely up there.
While it might feel lonely at times, it’s a grace that builds upon itself. We teach people how to treat us, and each time we choose love over pettiness, it sets the bar just a little bit higher for others to do the same.
We are all in this thing called life together. Friends, family, and enemies alike. So let us not rejoice in the suffering of anybody, and rather acknowledge that we’re all doing what it is that we think we need to be doing to get by. One day at a time.
Shana Stein Faulhaber is criminal defense attorney with offices in Athens and Corsicana and can be reached via email at email@example.com.