Saturday, 21 July 2012

Guilty as charged, Your Honour

What is it about people that we so easily kick a man when he's down, when we don't even know him? Why do we so love a public hanging? Why is it not hard to be so critical?

"Not me!" I hear you say... Oh yeah?

What about the time you passed judgement on that colleague who wasn't performing up-to-scratch, or at least, not up-to-your-scratch? Or the time you agreed with all those comments on talkback? Or you just happened across that "I hate..." Facebook page, after hearing about it at morning tea? How many times have we given our opinion on the motives of TV presenters, politicians or the police?

If you've been following the Scott Guy murder trial, what's your opinion on Ewen Macdonald - was he guilty, or have the cops nabbed the wrong man? The High Court jury saw fit to acquit him, yet the blogosphere is rife with opinions they got it wrong.

As a society, what do we really think about the concept of innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt? Why do we act as if the court of public opinion is so much smarter than a random bunch of our peers who sat through hundreds of hours of evidence, when all we saw were a few excerpts on the news, and some stories in the paper?

Why are we so ready to judge our fellow man - not just in the courts, but at work, at the local kindy, at the supermarket, or from the sidelines of our chosen sport? Do we really think we know what's going on in another person's mind? Who do we think we are - God?

Maybe it's because we've forgotten the instruction of the Master, to treat others in the manner in which we want to be treated. We call it the Golden Rule, but we joke that we should "do unto others before they do it to us."

Maybe it's because we have such a low opinion of ourselves, it helps to knock another from their perch - rightly or wrongly!

Maybe it's because it's easier to parrot self-acclaimed experts than to take the time to get to the bottom of a matter.

Maybe it's because we've been so hurt that it's easier to lash out at an unknown than it is to deal with our own debilitating pain.

Or maybe it's just because when we focus on another person's error, we can ignore our own lacks and mistakes.

Just maybe that's why Jesus taught us to first forgive others that we might also be forgiven.... Can we really afford to be "holier than thou"?

Just maybe it would help if on a daily basis we reminded ourselves, "There, but for the grace of God, go I ..."

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