The Value of Human Life

I took a class once where we had to watch this movie “Every 9 Seconds.” The movie was about domestic violence. It followed two female characters being abused by the men in their lives. And one female who was abused by her father when she was young. Her father then killed himself prior to his trial, so she had all of this unresolved pain.

The climax of the film included the abusive husband on a roof top, about to hurl himself off after finally feeling remorse and stating “They don’t need me” about his daughter and wife. The woman with unresolved pain from her father stated that despite what her father had done to her, all she ever wanted or needed was him. And then she convinced the abusive man not to jump.

He was then escorted away by police while he kept telling his wife how sorry he was. My hope for the character was that this was his first step on the path of contrition. His apologies showed him having attrition, which is the first step towards contrition.

The class was roughly 12 people including me. It wouldn’t be fair to say that all of the people were disappointed with the ending, but most of the participants were. Many of the class members throughout the movie were advocating for murder. One man spoke of aiming a gun at the abusive man’s head. And a few of them made actual “pop” sounds to mimic a gun shooting the man. I heard “piece of shit” and one even said, and this is a direct quote, that “he should be castrated with garden shears.”

I didn’t share those feelings. The sights and sounds of the woman being abused were appalling to me. I cried the other night watching a scene from Big Little Lies where Nicole Kidman’s character was being beaten to the ground by her husband in the show. Every fiber of my existence looks down upon domestic violence. But I don’t believe that anyone deserves to die because they commit the act.

Our job as human beings and creations of God is not to judge or condemn, or advocate for the loss of life. It’s to empathize, love, and forgive. It was really sad and weird to be in a group of people advocating for the opposite.

I know they’ve been hurt or conditioned by unwise people or both, so I’m willing to meet them where they are. I just wish something could get through to these people. Just as they want people to dive into the particulars of their situations, they should try to dive into the particulars of other people’s situations. Thieves, abusers, rapists, and murders deserve this kind of treatment as well.

St. Ignatius wrote about taking care of the oppressed on our travels. The people who hurt other people are oppressed. They have a level of perversion from their inner human nature, which is to love. I wish we could see them as that and not as “pieces of shit who deserve to be castrated.” Just as we are not the sum of the worst things we’ve done, neither are they.

I’m not suggesting that they don’t deserve to be punished, they do. Harshly. And if they don’t repent they will be in store for an eternity of punishment worse than any Earthly thing we can imagine. But human life and the opportunity for repentance is sacred and needs to be preserved. Every person deserves their chance at redemption, regardless of what they have done.

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