Unexpected compassion

Falling Ring

I received today a copy of the judgment that was entered into court in my divorce proceedings. I don’t really know if there is anything else that still needs to happen before the divorce is considered final, but since the paperwork says the judgment was entered a few days ago, I think that makes it official. I’m divorced.

I went into the human resources office at my workplace and asked to speak with the benefits coordinator. With the divorce final, I have an official qualifying life event that allows me to review the benefits I’ve selected for the year and make any changes that are appropriate. Our company’s benefits coordinator quickly and professionally provided me with the information and instructions I needed, but also gave me something I hadn’t expected: compassion. Instead of being strictly business, the benefits coordinator asked me how I was doing and talked with me for about half an hour about the things I was going through.

In retrospect, perhaps it’s odd that I was so surprised to be treated like a human being with feelings. I mean, how else but with compassion would you react to that kind of news? But then I realized why it had affected me so strongly: it was a sharp contrast to the reactions I’ve received from most people I’ve talked to.

I want to say this in the kindest possible way, but I also want to be honest about it. I have noticed, not just as a reaction to my divorce, but when dealing with many circumstances in which the Christian ideal isn’t maintained, the same religion that preaches compassion, the same people who extol its virtues, the very individuals who you’d hope would show the most compassion are prevented from doing so by the tenets of their faith. Okay. Maybe prevented is too strong a word. But they have a definite handicap.

I know this because I also saw it in myself. In the months after I determined that the religion I grew up believing just wasn’t true, I found myself to be far less judgmental of people who didn’t live up to the religion. Even though I knew that non-Mormons couldn’t be expected to abide by the teachings of Mormonism, I still had a little bit of a superiority complex. But I didn’t realize it until after I stopped believing in the religion and looked at the world with new eyes.

You see, I couldn’t exactly blame someone for drinking alcoholic beverages when they didn’t subscribe to the Word of Wisdom. But I didn’t drink. I couldn’t blame someone for watching rated R movies when they didn’t believe a prophet of God had proscribed them, but I didn’t watch rated R movies. I never blamed anyone for getting tattoos, or for swearing, or for having premarital sex, but I lived my life according to stricter standards. I was one of the chosen. I was one of God’s elect. I was a high priest of the Almighty God.

I didn’t think that made me any less accepting. I didn’t think I was judgmental. But I was. Because I knew the correct path to happiness. Even though non-members weren’t required to live by the same standards that I was, I knew the truth: that living such standards meant added happiness in this life and eternal life with God in the next. Even though I took care never to condemn anyone else, I was still judgmental. I was still smug in my superiority. I still struggled to have true compassion.

And since I’ve left the church, that’s what I’ve seen from other church members. I sincerely believe that they try not to judge me, but their words and actions show that they still judge me. In their eyes, I’m on the wrong path. I’ve turned my back on God and on my covenants. What else can they expect but that I’ll have a hard time going through this period? Why should they even try to shield me from the natural consequences of my sinful choices?

Throughout the process of my divorce, the only person who has shown me any compassion has been Girlfriend. The rest of my family and people I’ve talked with about it? The best they can say is that although they still love me, they know that the choices I’m making will ultimately lead to misery and a life of sin. With that attitude, how can they put their arm around me and ask how I’m doing, how things are affecting me, how I’m coping? So I get nothing. A generic “we love you no matter what,” but no real demonstrations of compassion. Only of judgment.

As my work colleague demonstrated, compassion is not gone from this world. Just don’t look for it among the elect.

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3 responses to “Unexpected compassion”

  1. night owl says :

    It’s never easy to face our own judgmental tendencies. I thought I was a pretty tolerant person until I realized how intolerant I am of intolerance. 🙂

    • the frogman says :

      That’s the kind of bigotry I can get behind. 🙂 Seriously, though, I’ve seen some Christians criticize each other for being too tolerant. I have to admit that scares me.

      • night owl says :

        That kind of thinking has always baffled me. However, being an idealist and thus, in the minority, a lot of things that people do baffle me. I have been trying (and occasionally succeeding) to be more understanding since I’m trying to make a career out of it, but I’m certainly not there yet.

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