Balancing Act   9 comments

October 22, 2018

Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?

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Ouch, hit me where I live why don’t you?

It’s that loaded word, you see – EVERYONE.

Do I think EVERYONE deserves a second chance? Oh, my!

As a born-again Christian, I am grateful for the uncountable “second” chances God has given to me to recognize His guidance and obey His will. I haven’t always “deserved” them. So, if I received forgiveness and a second chance, doesn’t everyone deserve forgiveness and a second chance? Well, the Bible doesn’t say we “deserve” forgiveness. In fact, it’s very clear that we don’t deserve forgiveness in our own right, which is why God Himself stepped down into human history as Jesus Christ to die for our sins. God forgives us because He loves us and He doesn’t want any of us to perish, but that forgiveness is a testament to His grace, not our worth.

The Bible is filled with stories of sinners given a second chance even when, by God’s rules, they didn’t deserve it. Adam, Cain, Moses, David, Solomon, Jacob, Rahab, Gomer, Paul, Peter, Japhthah … the Bible is a book of second-chance heroes. God is a God of second chances.

Charles MansonBut step down to the human level and ask, does everyone deserve a second chance from their fellow human beings, who are, collectively, a damaged and undeserving species? I still say, “Oh, my!”

My conundrum is tied up with the very clear Biblical admonition that we are to forgive those who hurt us 70×7, which is a Hebrew term that means “uncountable”. Seriously, don’t do the math. Just accept that God wants those He has forgiven to forgive without limit.

I try to live my life accordingly — to afford others a second or third or a million chances. I forgave my parents for the rather dysfunctional way they raised me and, in doing so, discovered a wealth of quirky human drama that I now appreciate in my writing. Brad and I would have divorced decades ago if I didn’t follow God’s guidance on this … and if Brad didn’t also, because I am far from perfect and he has had to give me multiple chances too.

I forgave Nora, my mother-in-law, for telling huge lies about me that had the police on my doorstep. I treat her nicely, I take her to lunch, I am her legal guardian and she’s invited to Christmas dinner. On the other hand, I don’t allow her to live with us again because I don’t want to go through another mess like that one. To be fair, I could probably be talked around, but my husband is adamant that his mother will never live with us so long as she is capable of dialing a telephone. Giving someone a second chance doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries to avoid a recurrence of bad behavior.

I think society is incredibly judgmental and abusive to people in that we maintain open public records that forever mark a person as “less than.” We have a friend who was convicted of manslaughter 20+ years ago and we believe he deserves a second chance. It hurts us to see when people continue to “hold him accountable” for something he can’t change, after he’s done his prison time and parole, paid reparations to the family, built a business, and raised two wonderful children with his wife. It’s as if everything that he has changed is worthless. At what point has he earned a second chance? Well, there are those in society who would say he never can earn a second chance, and they’d say that if his crime had been selling a baggie of weed instead of getting drunk and driving.

He’s just one example among millions in a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world and it is not to our national credit that we do this. People should be allowed a second chance after they’ve paid their debt to society. We have created a permanent underclass through our judgementalism.

This is why I am generally opposed to the death penalty. I think most people deserve a second chance just because I think all humans are depraved and, there but for the grace of God, it could be you or I condemned.

On the other hand, there are some people — a relatively few somebodies — who I don’t think deserve a second chance because the risk of allowing them to go free is too high for others. Serial killers, mass shooters, some pedophiles, paranoid schizophrenics with a history of going off their medication and being violent toward others during those un-medicated periods … they are my stumbling blocks. In theory, I think they “deserve” a second chance as much as anyone, except that the risk of the harm these people can do to others is simply not worth our forbearance, so in practice, I don’t believe they deserve a second chance.

So, everybody deserves a second chance, except ….

Oh, for the eyes of God, so that I might know the future outcome of giving everyone a second chance.



9 responses to “Balancing Act

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  1. I agree. I think it’s very possible to forgive somebody, but also realize that there are consequences for behavior, and that may mean a person needs to be in jail for the rest of their lives. And there are way too many people in jail who need a full chance at getting out and the possibility of a full life.


    • It’s one of those things we as a society need to discuss. We’ll incarcerate mass murderers for decades, risking them getting out or escaping, because we don’t want their blood on our hands (let’s remember that Manson was eligible for parole every two years for the last 20 years of his life), but then we’ll put someone in prison for life for murder whose crime was clearly driven by the passion of the moment. We’ll continue to hold someone responsible for a crime they committed decades ago, as if nothing has changed in those years. And, Americans especially need to be thinking about this because according to some observers, the average ordinary American commits three felonies a day and doesn’t even realize it.

      There, but for the authorities not seeing us do it, go any of us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wise words, Lela. I’m all for forgiving but not forgetting. My mother-in-law also told lies about me, and her two daughters believed her. This caused a rift that took 7 years to heal. Like you I would give most people a second chance except for paedophiles and murderers who have re-offended after being given a second chance. We have to draw the line somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a big fan of the death penalty either, especially as new technology keeps finding new evidence to overturn old judgments, and helps prove that convictions were the result of improper prosecutions.


    • More than anything, the “improper prosecutions” come down to two areas. 1) We believe the eyewitness even in the absence of other evidence. 2) Defendants and their public defenders cave to pressure from the prosecution and plead guilty to things they didn’t do. So, while we can blame the prosecutors for that, I think it’s also on the defendants for not insisting they go to trial. Yeah, you can put it down to they don’t know their rights, but how much do you have to know to know you shouldn’t plead guilty to something you didn’t do, even if they tell you the sentence will be longer if you fight the charge? It’s something public defenders should be held accountable for … that they had a client saying “I didn’t do that”, but they advise them to plead guilty anyway. It just goes to show the foolishness of the defense, prosecution and judge all working for the government.


  4. Interesting point about society exposing every mark. Nice article.


    • You can’t screw up in America. It’s always put on a public website to ruin or at least compromise the rest of your life. There’s no room for redemption.


      • I agree, also there is the constant threat that as soon as a person becomes famous, somebody will scour their social media and find an incendiary post or tweet to vilify them.


      • Yeah. There’s good points and bad points to that. Wayback has saved us from some really bad message-shapers, but a lot of stuff gets taken out of context to shape opinions against people who aren’t evil. People don’t stop and think, don’t go see if the memes are true. They just become judgment stone-chuckers, mobs gathered to attack on a tissue of propaganda.


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