There are some things that are better in theory than in practice. I have known quite a number of young women who have either through their words or actions expressed an overwhelming desire for bad boys or evil men. Today, for example, a coworker of mine expressed her love of dating cholos (hispanic gangsters, often from Southern California, typically in khakis and a wifebeater, often seen on Cops and similar tv shows). Later on this evening, I had cause to remember another young lady I know who once in a game that we were playing drew two drawings about Loki, the villain of the Thor and Avenger movies, showing sympathy to him because of his perceived mistreatment, while being slightly less sympathetic in real life to those who have had rather painful and dramatic life stories, whether out of ignorance or out of an inability to connect the sympathy within her mind and fantasy with the actions she takes in real life.
It is easy for those of us who are deeply scarred souls to have a certain resonance with others who have similarly suffered themselves. It is as if there are some people who are attuned, often without being consciously aware of it, to the frequency of pain and suffering in the lives of others. There is a certain joy, a certain lifting of the burdens of our lives, when we are around someone who understands and gets us, to whom we do not have to explain our fears and insecurities because they understand them and accept us as we are. This sort of sensitivity can be real and genuine with some people, and it can be pretended for tactical reasons by others who seek to take advantage of those who are vulnerable.
But where it is real and genuine, it is not always easy to understand where someone is coming from. Even though we may often have the same sort of trials and suffering and pain in life, the way we choose to deal with it is often distinct. Some people appear to be perfectly fine and together on the outside while they are burdened far beyond what they can manage on the inside, wishing someone would help them with their burden but too afraid to open up about their struggles for fear of being rejected and made fun of for their weaknesses or shortcomings or blemishes or scars. Other people cannot help but express and externalize their struggles, and have to deal with the bewildering array of responses that people have to the sufferings of this world, ranging from hostility towards those who have endured the horrors that can be inflicted on God’s children, to overwhelming kindness and affection from tender and loving hearts, to bewilderment and confusion and a desire on the part of some to escape or avoid such problems altogether.
Yet there is a breathtaking beauty to pain, which can make life complicated and difficult when we choose to open our hearts, damaged though they may be, to those who have their own damages, who come from broken homes, who have deep longings for affection and concern and attention and deep suffering from abuse and neglect, from material poverty and from the deficit of love and respect. It is not always easy for us to recognize this beauty in ourselves that may draw to us those huddled masses yearning to be free from oppression and injustice, even as it draws us to the same sort of people as we would like to be, people with tender hearts, who patiently listen and encourage and hold us accountable to a higher standard even as they strengthen the better angels of our natures. Sometimes that breathtaking beauty may be hard to understand, sometimes it may bring us pain to help those who are suffering, even as it reminds us of our own struggles and causes us to weep for ourselves and for others who are not so different from us after all. Yet it is a pain that refines our character, makes us more compassionate and understanding of others, and that may, if we are fortunate, bring us the wholeness and intimacy that we seek, no matter how much pain we may endure along the way until we see the fruits of our torment and labor.