12 February 2012

Should we feel sorry for these people?

I have a friend who says that almost all people deserve the bad things that happen to them.  That if a girl is dating a guy who continually abuses her, she deserves it.  If a guy dates a girl who takes advantage of him, he deserves it.  If a person experiences some sort of hardship with their job based on their actions or inactions, they deserve it.  If a person’s car breaks down on the side of the road because of lack of maintenance, they deserve it.  If a religious leader is doing immoral actions and gets caught, they deserve it.  If a politician gets caught in a lie or is beaten in an election because of their decisions, they deserve it.  If a person uses a lot of drugs and something bad happens because of that, they deserve it.  If a person gets involved with shady people and something bad happens because of that, they deserve it.  If a rich professional athlete or actor makes millions upon millions and then ends up broke due to bad money decisions, it is deserved.

I have really tried to understand his perspective.  I have moved back and forth between agreeing with him and not fully agreeing with him.

I have known people who were in bad relationships and did not leave the relationship despite the prodding from other people, despite the black eyes and bruised cheeks and arms and necks they suffered.  I have seen men and women in relationships who are basically being stalked by their significant other - can’t go anywhere without the person calling or texting to see where they are, have the other person checking their phone, car mileage, smelling their clothes, etc.  There are people who get involved with people who are into "bad" things and then they begin to do the same bad things (drugs, gambling, risky sex, not paying bills, etc).  

I always wondered why they stayed with these people.  Are they really needy?  Are they desperate?  Are they settling?

I don’t know.

But it is some situations like this that make me really think about what my friend says about deserving what they get.  

I know it sounds horrible and goes against a lot of what many women (and men) believe, but if you keep putting yourself in a situation that you know is not good, that you know is really bad, that you know is awful, do you deserve sympathy any more?

I think about Whitney Houston.  I know the autopsy is not released, but I also know that many people are assuming that her sad death must have been related to drugs.

A long time ago, people stopped feeling sympathy for her because she kept making choices that were detrimental to her.  Instead she was the face of ridicule.  The face of shame.  The face of many jokes about drugs and bad choices.

Now the sympathy is back.  

I was shocked and not shocked by her death.  I feel horrible for her family that must deal not only with her passing, but also with the public nature of it (can’t get on Twitter, can’t watch the news, can’t watch the Grammy’s, can’t even turn to Vh1 Soul without seeing her everywhere).

I am not saying we should’t feel anything for the people in these various situations, but perhaps (don’t hate me) we should not be using up our energy feeling sorry for them.  

Instead, we should try and help them see their situations in a different way so that they realize that they really are better than what they are suffering through.

This is my Stream of Consciousness Sunday post.  Learn more by clicking the button below.



  1. I can agree to an extent with your friend, however there is an exception to every rule, right? I think with each circumstance, that assessment needs to be given and truly assessed.

  2. What we do - the choices we make - certainly has consequences. But I hope there's also room for grace and forgiveness, because we all have our demons, and sometimes it's harder than it looks to destroy them.

  3. @ Jackie and @ Dawn Storey - Both of you express the dilemma I have with his assertion... There are exceptions and there are times when people have demons that are hard to destroy. That is why I don't think his opinion is always a solid argument.

    People have compassion and that is why we feel for people and want to help them.

    Thanks for sharing your opinions.

  4. Yes, but you really can't make an addict want to get into recovery if he or she isn't ready to do so. That's a decision a person has to come to on his or her own. All you can do as a friend or family member is put up your boundaries and stay firm with them to try to minimize the damage the addict can do to you and your world. Some people, unfortunately, will never choose recovery, and they will die. No one else can be held responsible for that choice.

  5. You should have room in your life for empathy and try to remember that life is not black and white, we live in shades of gray. We have a tendency to 'Blame the victim' because it makes us feel better like it can't happen to us but don't forget empathy and understanding. It doesn't mean excusing behavior it just means living life with some compassion,love and understanding and being careful that we say someone 'deserves it'. I am sorry to say this but your friend scares me, he seems to lack empathy and has a 'know it all' attitude and that can lead you into serious trouble in life.

  6. @ Erin - I think that was my friend's main point... that you can't make them go into recovery or make them change unless they are willing to do it on their own. It's a shame that their actions will hurt so many others, though. I am in the process of teaching my sociology students about the idea that there are no "victimless" crimes.

    @ Lucy - Empathy is definitely an important trait for people to possess. I think my friend's main point is what you said, not excusing the behavior. He is compassionate, but understands that like Erin said, you cannot bring them to do what they do not want to do. Don't worry, he is not a scary person ;-) I think he has just dealt with a lot of people he wanted to help change that didn't, as well as people that don't take advantage of the positives available to them - and I think that has hardened him a bit.

    Thanks for stopping in and sharing your insights.

  7. I am a form believer in a type of karma: you get what you give. Its also easier to observe and not say what you are going to do or how you would handle a situation. I think its up to individuals to decide what's best for them and act on it. As much as I want to help, until the person is ready to help all I can do is be supportive.
    My two cents.

  8. The only judgment I'm passing is the decision to start using drugs in the first place. It's no secret that you can't be a casual crack user.

    I don't always think people deserve what they get. Some of it is life and happenstance. But a lot of it is choice.

  9. @ ~Rachée - Thanks for your two cents. I agree that it is so important that we remember that you can't really help people in (almost) any situation until they are ready for that help.

    @ all.things.fadra - Starting drugs doesn't always lead to death, but in many cases it does lead to addiction that can not always be stopped. Especially with the new "cool" drugs of the prescription kind that many people in everyday life use regularly. (How many of us know of people who need to pop one to calm down at the end of the day, or to fly, or to get through fill-in-the-blank?) It's like our society is becoming more drug tolerant when it comes to scripts. I agree with you that people don't deserve what they get all the time. Unfortunately, a lot of choices lead to people's problems, though. Thanks for stopping in and thanks for hosting SOC Sundays!


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