between zero and hero: mere men

“As you get older you will learn that loyalty is a virtue too important to be lavished on individual personalities.”

(From That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis).

When I was a child, back in the eighties, my friends and I used to play this hero or superman game. We would identify with some action figure we considered super-dooper and, well, “fight” each other. Or at least we would mimic a fight from an action movie we secretly watched behind our parents back. Most of us were allowed to watch some violence in cartoons, but weren’t allowed to see the real deal – or so we thought… So Rambo and Rocky were out of the question. This prohibition only added to the mystique of these films and ignited our desire to watch them at all costs. It also made the movie characters larger than life, still, if that was even possible.

I remember that we weren’t quite fully aware of the fictitious nature of most heroes. So Sylvester Stallone was different from Rambo and Rocky, as Arnold Schwarzenegger differed from, say, Conan the BarbarianMr. T and B.A. Baracus likewise might have had the same look, but were not to be mistaken for each other. Besides, for some strange reason still unknown to us, we could watch the A-Team. Other cardboard characters in our “realm of the gods” were real cartoon (hmm, “real cartoon”) characters like He-Man or G.I. Joe. And Bruce Lee was the ultimate legend, of course.

It was a simpler world then, for me and my friends. There were good guys and bad guys. Heroes and villains. The Cold War hadn’t quite finished, and as children from Europe’s West we would team up with the valiant knights of the USA against the evil empire of the USSR. For instance, together with Rocky we would fight the Russian monstrous man-machine Drago in Rocky IV. Or we would cheer Rambo to outsmart the Soviets with aid of the Taliban in Rambo III (imagine that – how policies change according to newly found “common enemies”!). We had yet to learn that “the Russians love their children too”, although Sting already sang this as far back as 1985.

Growing up, I learned that the battle between good and evil is not really a battle of “us” (the good guys) versus “them” (the bad guys), but should actually be located in the individual.The battle of the handsome He-Man versus the atrocious Skeletor became understandable as a metaphor for an inner struggle in every man’s heart or soul. After all, “we all have our demons to fight”, don’t we? Freudian psycho-analysis would call this battle the source of an ever fragile equilibrium the Ich has to maintain between Es and Über-Ich.

All of a sudden, the world wasn’t that simple anymore. We couldn’t just locate evil outside of ourselves anymore and banish it, like some scapegoat in the desert. Moreover, the heroes we identified with as children turned out to posses some bad character traits as well. It all boils down to your point of view. I once read a testimony from a Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust wherein she states that the most scandalous experience she had back then, was the realization that her tormentor was a human being, just like herself – after seeing him in a gentle mood with his family. Or, to put things slightly different, Superman only appears beneficial among his own kin. From the perspective of his opponents and victims, he is the devil. So to follow some kind of Superman in all circumstances – even if it’s the Superman you imagine yourself to be – is a shady affair. You could become a monster in trying to turn yourself into a hero…

“Yesterday he was a god; today he is a devil; tomorrow he’ll be a man again; that’s all.”

(From The Three Clerks, by Anthony Trollope).

The challenge that arises from this identity crisis is to accept that you yourself and the people you look up to are not the noble heroes you imagined, nor is your opponent or enemy the monster you always thought. Mercy and forgiveness can only come from this kind of acceptance, from the realization that it is okay to be “mere men”. For the longest time humanity has convinced itself that people should strife for perfection no matter what, that people should resemble some godly ideal.

The ancient Greek philosophers basically defended the idea that it’s nature’s law that “man becomes god.” Christianity tells the shocking story that “God becomes man.” Meaning that it’s not even necessary to participate in a battle between “angels and demons” to sustain some sense of identity. Beyond psycho-analytical identity constructions, you are loved just the same. The paradoxical miracle of accepting yourself as “not being a hero”, is that you can truly become a saving grace for others. For it is when we keep on believing the illusion that we can somehow heroically protect ourselves and our own from all harm and that “evil does not happen but far from our quarters”, that we remain blind for the evil that happens on our very doorstep.

When pedophilia scandals came to light in the Catholic Church of Belgium as well, following reports from child abuse by churchmen from around the world and with the infamous case of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe serving as a trigger, one of my colleagues was scandalized because I claimed that we all bear some sort of responsibility in these cases. Let’s face it, when push comes to shove, we often do have the tendency to look the other way and to let others – you know, “professionals” – deal with “sensitive cases”. But even psychiatrists and health care workers, it seems, aren’t to be trusted. The Netherlands were recently shocked by Rieke Samson’s report on child abuse in youth care. And in Belgium there was psychiatrist Walter Vandereycken’s case. He allegedly abused some of his adult female patients.

It’s very easy to express disgust for criminals and wrongdoers, and to feel some relief for “not being part of the corrupt group” that let them have their way. But I think, considering the spread of child abuse cases, that the Gospel is right for revealing the painful truth that we are all, more often than not, like the apostle Peter whose loyalty is refuted by Jesus (Matthew 26:34): “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Indeed, when Jesus becomes a victim of the authorities, Peter looks the other way in order to keep himself from getting contaminated with the troubles of his friend.

So it comes as no surprise then that it was easier for the BBC to run a documentary about child abuse in the Catholic Church (The Shame of the Catholic Church), than to give green light for a documentary about the systematic child abuse of one of its celebrity TV-personalities, the late Jimmy Savile. It’s all too human, sadly. But evil is and can be everywhere, also in our own quarters. We might be tempted again to exorcize that evil and restore our sense of identity by “sending a scapegoat into the desert” or by executing large scale witch hunts, but that won’t heal the damage done. It will only increase people’s solicitude to be “on the right side of the line” between good and evil. It will create further mistrust between people and complicate relationships, especially between educators and children. Educators might start to promote a culture of distance between themselves and children, which will again allow malicious minds to gain an aura of inaccessibility and power – and the problem of child abuse might continue by the very measures that tried to avoid it.

As long as we are more preoccupied to safeguard our own “goodness” by blaming each other for all the “badness”, we won’t be able to help any one victim.

To give up on an easy manicheistic duality between good and evil is very difficult. Make no mistake, many of the people who were on Lance Armstrong’s side when he provided the Tour de France with himself as a new legend in cycling publicly loathe him now. He’s gained money for lots of people, and we just love heroic athletes. But ever since he was revealed as a cheat, we’re on the search for new, “real” heroes. And the vicious circle goes on, for no mere man is capable of being that legendary. Maybe he’ll be remembered more positively when he passes away as a tragic old man and long forgotten sports hero. It’s what happened to Michael Jackson and so many other celebrities. Before he died, the general public didn’t care about Jackson’s music anymore, focusing instead on allegations of child abuse and other scandals Jackson was involved in. Dead, he again became the attractive idol he once was. René Girard’s mimetic theory explains parts of our awe for (and idolization of) the dead from deeply embedded and culturally transmitted experiences surrounding victims of mob violence, whose death formerly brought peace and unity to communities.

Mimetic mechanisms time and again trick us into participating in the creation of “heroes” and “monsters” (who are often our former heroes). We constitute the crowd that applauds the emperor’s new clothes, until a child tells us that he really has no clothes. And then Lance walks on, proud as we have taught him to be, and we, doing everything not to lose face, convince ourselves that we somehow knew or didn’t know (depending on our position) of his deception all along…

One can only pray that people like football coach Jerry Sandusky, who abused several boys, are also taken care of by relatives. Else fallen heroes mainly serve as markers to identify and to judge what and who is “good” and what and who is “bad”. To forget that our “heroes” or “zeros” are mostly “mere men”, is to forget our own humanity. It means that we will imitate the crowd that claims to be “righteous”. It means that we will identify with the hero we imagine ourselves to be to destroy “the bad guys” outside ourselves. It means that we will unwittingly become monsters ourselves, equal to the monster we were trying to destroy – its double. Shouldn’t we be preoccupied with Sandusky’s victims instead of Sandusky himself? To listen to the voice of the Victim in our midst, instead of the thousands of godly heroes in our head that put “us” against “them”, well… that’ll be the day…

For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you fleshly? […] Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come. All are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

(1 Corinthians 3:3-4 & 3:21-23).

12 comments

  1. skylar · November 6, 2012

    Eric,
    so glad you are writing about pedophiles because they are also psychopaths. Though Lance is not a pedophile, AFAIK, he is a liar and a cheater who manipulates for his own gain and doesn’t care who gets hurt. I’d call that a psychopath.

    You are so right that we must be very careful not to turn into them. We can’t just accuse them and burn them at the stake. THEY WOULD LOVE THAT DRAMA. Why? Because they are like Lucifer and they want us to imitate them.

    Jesus forgave the sinners who approached him with contrition in their hearts. But on the cross, he did not forgive his persecuters. Instead, he commended them to God, his father and asked God to forgive them because they knew not what they did. This is very different from forgiving someone who is sorry. It’s more of: Let go, Let God.

    I have an online friend who posts on a blog with the name of Darwinsmom. She is Belgian, by coincidence, but she is also an atheist who is very interested in the story of Jesus.

    She is also intimately familiar with psychopathic behavior through experience. She said that Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion is about the transcendence that occurs after a psychopath has betrayed and ALMOST destroyed you.

    When I, or anyone who has been betrayed and scapegoated tries to explain it to anyone who has not had the experience, it falls on deaf ears. There is no way to really explain what an encounter with naked evil is like. No way. It must be felt. Like it was for Eve when she was betrayed by the snake and her whole world was destroyed, cast out of Eden, to suffer for the rest of her life.

    Darwinsmom made the comparison that Jesus rose from the dead to sit at his father’s right hand and JUDGE the living and the dead AFTER he was scapegoated. It is the process of being a sacrificial victim that makes us able to judge right from wrong. Eve understood good and evil AFTER her betrayal. An encounter with a psychopath makes it very clear who is evil and who is good. There is no question anymore. We can SEE it.

    You see, before a psychopath encounter, none of us could see evil. We believed that all people had good and bad. Not so. Some have pledged their souls to Satan and to do only evil. They know, and it’s what they have chosen. They confuse us by doing good deeds in public. So we wonder why they are good and bad. But Jesus explained that hypocrites do good works in public so that others will think they are good. They aren’t.

    After a psychopath encounter, we can look at Jerry Sandusky and see that his “good works” were his MASK of SANITY. It was meant to deceive you and me. His victims would never be believed, he didn’t even worry about that.

    All of them wear masks. That’s what they are. An empty shell with a mask.

    I reiterate, that we must not become like them. We must follow Jesus’ example and leave it up to God to judge them. Even have compassion while we suffer their persecution and repeated attempts to murder and slander us. BUT, we must not be fooled into believing that they are just like us. Once we have the knowledge of good and evil, we must use it to discern what is good and what is evil. As far as forgiveness. Leave that to God.

    Like

    • erik buys · November 6, 2012

      Dear Skylar,

      I think I understand what you’re saying.

      I’m not arguing that Jerry Sandusky should be forgiven, just like that. Moreover, to be able to forgive, as a victim, and no longer letting yourself be defined by the evil you had to endure, is one thing. To be able to receive forgiveness another. In the case of Jerry Sandusky, I don’t know if either are possible, humanly speaking. So I tend to agree with you on this point.

      My point was that we all do bear responsibility regarding the possibilities psychopaths receive in our society. It’s a fact that they can often play their manipulative games, and our society often promotes what’s regarded as “clever” behavior, at the expense of victims it only seems to want to acknowledge after a very long time. When the games of the psychopath don’t seem to “benefit” us anymore, it seems a lot easier to take measures – many people must have looked the other way and must have minimized certain things while Sandusky abused young boys, simply because he was regarded as a “beneficial sports king”. I’m not sure if Lance Armstrong is a psychopath. He demonstrates some behavior that could be labeled as “psychopathic”, but only because the sports and entertainment industry are what they are (Armstrong is far from being the only cyclist who deceived the general public) – and our society as a whole is very performance oriented; and we are part of that society.

      So I didn’t want to blur the line between good and evil, but I did want to raise the question about our own share and responsibility in creating the circumstances where evil can flourish.

      Like

  2. skylar · November 6, 2012

    Eric,
    Yes, we are all enablers in more ways than one. First, as Girard says, our culture was founded on a murder and a lie. Humanity’s competitive nature includes the use of shame to manipulate and to scapegoat.

    Then, there is the “blind eye” we turn on evil. Myself, I was too afraid to admit that I was in the presence of a horrible evil, so I know that I blinded myself, I remember doing it.

    The only answer to evil is to shun it. Turn your back on it. But many times, even when we know someone is evil, we still say “hello” because we don’t like to be rude. Or because they own the convenience station on the corner and that’s where we get out gas and groceries. Or because it happens to be our brother or sister and we don’t want to make waves or pick sides.

    Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'”

    When we stop enabling evil we WILL create enemies. They will attack you, slander you, even try to murder you. That is why so many were afraid to speak up to Sandusky, Armstrong, Savile. Evil ones know this and they place all their pieces around you before they reveal their evil face and dare you to speak up and become the scapegoat.

    Like

    • erik buys · November 6, 2012

      Skylar,

      Well, yeah, Jesus indeed criticized the all too obvious bonds of clan (or “clique”)-loyalty, because the “peace” and “unity” of these bonds is often created or reestablished at the expense of victimized scapegoats. You’re right to quote Matthew 10:34-36 in that respect.

      On the other hand, his ultimate aim was to repair broken relationships, or even to establish new ones. It was not his aim to become a scapegoat among the scapegoats, although he was fully aware of running the risk of becoming one (and he eventually became one), but to bring a new kind of peace between men – after “doing violence to totality.”

      I think it’s also good to remember that he did not give up on people. He forgave people, even those who were not ready, who were too proud etc. to receive forgiveness. Still he believed that “people can change.” He condemned evil done, i.e. evil deeds. We cannot turn back the clock. What’s done is done. An evil deed cannot be forgiven because it can’t be changed. It’s locked up in the past. But evildoers, people, do have a future. So maybe they can change. I admit, often beyond our wildest imaginations, beyond what we can bear as human beings.

      I fear that, when we locate evil in people, we’ll start scapegoating again. Jesus condemned the sin (evil deed – the object of evil), but he forgave the sinner (evildoer – the subject of evil), even if the sinner was too blinded by his own vanity, greed, pride or anguish to receive forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that relationships are reestablished. It opens up a possibility, but it’s up to the evildoer to acknowledge responsibility for his own actions, to repent and to change. Often this change doesn’t happen, and then it might indeed ultimately depend upon the power of a Love beyond our human capacities. And even if this change happens, others who get to know the former evildoer might benefit from it, but not his former victims. So, even in the case of the forgiveness of a person who does repent, there might not be a reconciliation between former victim and former evildoer. Maybe in some other time and some other place – “a Kingdom of another world” – both the works of forgiveness and repentance might be fulfilled in the reconciliation of all creatures…

      “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6). The “wolf” – Sandusky – will live with the “lamb” – his victims?

      I guess these visions compose the full “scandal” of the Hebrew Bible and the Gospel.

      Like

  3. skylar · November 6, 2012

    Eric,
    can you give me an example where Jesus forgave those who were not ready or too proud?

    Forgiving before repentance is putting the cart before the horse, I believe. We can still have COMPASSION for sinners who don’t repent, but forgiveness without an act of contrition is just more ENABLING OF EVIL. That is when we take on more responsibility than we have power to bear.

    I have watched evil (and I mean evil, murdering, raping, sadists) people and how they connive. After one had done something particularly scandalous, he smugly said, “You’re a christian so you have to forgive.” Though he said he was not even sorry. To these people it is a joke and a game, to watch us repeatedly forgive them, just so they can do it all over again. It resets the game.

    This particular person has a very inadequate mask and his narcissism is so complete that he forgets to wear his mask most of the time. LOL. He was actually fun to study, although I did get slimed by his shame.

    What was most interesting to learn is that they all think exactly the same way. When you know one, you know them all. The only difference is the mask.

    Reading about borderline personality disorder, revealed to me that they feel they must transgress so that they will be hated. Then the game begins again, where they try to get back in your good graces. The moment you say, “I love you, or I forgive you.” to a BPD, you ignite their disdain, and their rage and they begin planning on how to hurt you again.

    This is because they are so shallow that they have no meaning in their lives. Without meaning, life is only a game. And when you acquiesce to their charm or pity ploy by forgiving, you’ve ended the game. They can’t stand for the game to end. They need to have something to pursue, chase, target, acquire. And the cycle begins anew.

    Like

    • erik buys · November 7, 2012

      Well Skylar,

      I had to think about Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34), or about John 8:10-11: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Or about Matthew 5:39: But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. I’ve written about this, you might remember (click here). Or even Luke 6:38: Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.

      Indeed psychopaths turn forgiveness into a game. That’s exactly my point! Because it means that they are not able to receive forgiveness. Their heart is obscured, darkened – “they know not of love, know not what they do.” To turn forgiveness into a game, not being able to receive forgiveness, ultimately means that you are not forgiven! This doesn’t mean, however, that the act of forgiveness itself becomes futile, worthless or senseless. Forgiveness does not depend on any possible outcome and it is certainly not conditioned by the evil it encounters. It’s an act of freedom. It means that you act independently of the behavior of an evildoer, that you are no longer defined by the evil you had to endure. If the evildoer sincerely repents his mistakes, then there is a chance that some sort of relationship might be restored (although not necessarily). If he doesn’t and it becomes clear that he’s just been toying with you, then it is obvious that you cannot but leave him to himself. Then you can only go on with your life. You’ve offered grace, shown mercy and trust, and if someone is stubbornly not capable of responding to those gifts, it’s really not your responsibility anymore. There are plenty of other people who will respond by giving grace and trust in return.

      As long as people are not forgiven because they turn forgiveness into a game, the cycle of evil, the cycle of vengeance returns. But the act of forgiveness is unconditional. It transcends that cycle. It breaks it. It doesn’t care about evil and how it might respond – which makes evil really angry! Turning the gift of forgiveness into a game doesn’t mean that the act of forgiveness is destroyed. The offer still stands, as a real scandal to evil. Evil can only turn to itself. Not to the absolute goodness of grace. And guided by that grace you walk on, leaving evil to itself, leaving it all behind…

      Like

  4. skylar · November 7, 2012

    Eric,
    I think it’s important to differentiate between forgiveness and offering the other cheek. My experience with psychopaths is that they don’t want what is freely given. They only want what they take by force or by deceit. That is why we should not resist their evil, it only furthers the game.

    The psychopath attaches significance only to the things YOU value and they wait for you to show what you value before they take it. So Jesus admonishes us not to value material possessions, in part because it just attracts people who want to take them.

    The reason it is important NOT to forgive those who are not repentant is because it enables them to do more evil, TO OTHERS. This evil behavior is harmful to others as well as to them.

    Psychopathy is an addiction, to shame and shameful behavior. It must be treated just like any other addiction is treated. You can have compassion for the addict but we must not enable it. The difference between an addiction to a substance and an addiction to evil is that evil requires another human being to participate as a victim, whereas other addictions require drugs or alcohol.

    My point is not to scapegoat the evil doer, we are all sinners and it does no good to point fingers. My point is that we should not PARTICIPATE in their evil by expressing forgiveness for them. I also realize that holding a grudge is also PARTICIPATING, so we can’t do that either. It is unfortunate but when a psychopath sees a human being, he just sees an opportunity to do evil. Just like when an alcoholic sees alcohol he sees an opportunity to get drunk.

    Sam Vaknin, a self-professed malignant narcissist who blogs online said, “a narcissist doesn’t have friends or enemies, he only has supply.” All human beings are a supply of drama for them. They want our emotions. So we must not give them any. Forgiveness, is an emotion, a feeling of reconciliation. Holding a grudge, likewise is an emotion.

    That is why the only solution, for the good of all involved, is to shun those who do evil and let God forgive them.

    Like

    • erik buys · November 7, 2012

      Skylar,

      I’m not quite sure if I can agree with you on your statement that forgiveness is a feeling of reconciliation. I tend to distinguish between forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. The perspective of forgiveness might motivate some evildoers to repent – although not all of them -, as the experience of sincere repentance might enable some victims to grow towards forgiveness. Reconciliation might be the outcome of this twofold dynamic, although neither forgiveness on the part of the victim nor repentance on the part of the evildoer can manipulate the reaction of the other party. Manipulated forgiveness is not really forgiveness, as manipulated repentance is not really repentance.

      To forgive a drug addict – a very good analogy by the way! – is to give him another chance, but this doesn’t mean that you forgive the evil or harm he has done or still does to himself and to others (for instance stealing money from others, violently or otherwise). To forgive him means that you appeal to the freedom that is left, the small part that is not spoiled by the addiction, in order to create the realm where he might take up responsibility for himself and for others. As long as he can not do that, he must be under guidance and under control – to protect society (as well as himself!) from him.

      As I said before, evil deeds – the “object” of evil – cannot be forgiven. But victims of drug addicts or psychopaths can forgive – of course they never have to – the “subjects” of evil, even if these wrongdoers must remain in custody because they have not liberated themselves from their respective addictions. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jean Monbourquette? He did some very interesting studies in the nature of true forgiveness and the healing and liberating effects it has on victims. I can recommend his book How to Forgive. To forgive someone in your heart, for instance a family member who’s done something wrong to you but who’s died, means that you let go of the consuming and tiring desire to be “paid back”. It means literally to be liberated from the “spell” of the evildoer on your life.

      Anyway, to forgive someone does not mean that you forgive the evil that he’s committed. It doesn’t even imply that you set him free. And it certainly doesn’t imply that you take away his responsibility to repent and to really change.

      But of course, in the case of psychopaths, forgiveness is often absolutely out of the question and unimagineable, humanly speaking.

      Like

  5. skylar · November 8, 2012

    Eric,
    I guess we are not seeing things the same. So I will just say to you that there are certain people whom you can forgive, if you choose to do so, just don’t let THEM know. It isn’t good for them OR you and in fact just makes them worse.

    When Sandusky was “forgiven” by the Penn State elite, he just pushed the boundary further and raped more boys. In an email, the men had reasoned that it was the “humane” thing to do, not to inform social services. They wanted to give him another chance.

    In his book, Touched, Sandusky tells,
    “My father probably spoke the most truthful words about me that had ever been spoken, ‘Jer,’ he said, ‘you could mess up a free lunch.’ … I thrived on testing the limits of others and I enjoyed taking chances in danger.”

    Forgiveness created a worse monster. He was not going to set his own limits and nobody else did either. They have NO limits.

    I understand that offering a safe place for beginning the process of confession is part of forgiveness, but psychopaths do not trust. That is why they are psychopaths. They never feel safe enough to tell the truth about anything. They will even lie when the truth would serve them better, such is the extent of their mistrust.

    If forgiveness means to “get the bitterness out of your heart” then by all means do so. But I don’t believe forgiveness is necessary for that. To simply change your perspective and not take the psychopath’s transgressions personally, is all that is required.

    Like

    • erik buys · November 8, 2012

      Hi Skylar,

      I think we agree more or less. From what you just wrote:

      “If you choose to forgive, just don’t let THEM know. It isn’t good for them OR you and in fact just makes them worse.”

      And this:

      “If forgiveness means to “get the bitterness out of your heart” then by all means do so. But I don’t believe forgiveness is necessary for that. To simply change your perspective and not take the psychopath’s transgressions personally, is all that is required.”

      The main issue we don’t seem to agree on, is this last one. We have another understanding, another definition of “forgiveness”. What you call “to change your perspective and not take the psychopath’s transgressions personally”, is part of the reality of forgiveness in my understanding of that word. But maybe I’m stretching it. I’ll certainly reconsider my understanding of forgiveness.

      A question just came to my mind, and maybe you’ll be able to answer it: are psychopaths “sick” people (of course they are in more than one sense), also in the sense that they have a disease and that you can’t really blame them for showing certain symptoms? Maybe we can only blame them after offering them a cure? Or maybe thinking about it as a disease is not very helpful; thinking about it as an addiction seems to work better…

      Anyway,

      Thank you very much already for a fruitful conversation! You gave me lots of things to think about, and I’ll certainly reread your posts more than once. They open doors!!

      Like

  6. skylar · November 14, 2012

    Eric, It’s been fruitful for me too.

    I think the psychopath has a type of brain damage that is self inflicted by his willful refusal to feel. By numbing his prefrontal cortex, beginning at a young age, he loses the ability to grow up, to bond, to experience emotions, to have empathy or connect with other human beings.

    Forgiveness is a topic that has so many angles and layers, even as we try to grasp the concept, it slips away again. Here is an example of forgiveness as it applies to sex addiction.
    http://thesexaddictedbrain.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/01/sex-addiction-and-the-science-of-forgiveness.html
    It’s long but very worthwhile. I’ve read it several times and get something new out of it.
    Psychopaths are almost always sex addicts who act on that addiction. And sex addicts are actually shame addicts.

    This is what leads us back to Girard’s theories: Shame and envy.
    In A Theatre of Envy, he states,“Envy involuntarily testifies to the lack of being that puts the envious to shame.”

    Like

    • erik buys · November 14, 2012

      Thanks for the link, Skylar! Very interesting, indeed!

      Like

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