One of the saddest things to me is looking at the mug shot of criminals posted on the news. They are everywhere – from the man who massacred many in Norway, to the local couple accused of killing the mother of the man’s kids. They are young, they are old, male, female.
What do you think about when you look at these people? Often times their crimes have been heinous, and it seems that we, as a society, are fascinated with their photos. Why else would the news organizations splash their pictures everywhere? Do we hope to detect the monster in them? Do we hope they look ugly, deranged, and as much unlike us as possible? Do we look at them with disgust, pity, or hate?
Or do we look at them with compassion and grace? And, what is the loving way to look at them? How do the great spiritual teachers call us to look at them?
I have a game that I play when I see these photos. Maybe you can try it, too. I look right into the person’s eyes, and I remember that once, those were the eyes of an innocent, guiltless newborn. A cooing, gurgling baby. A toddler taking her first step. A child speaking his first word. A pre-schooler learning her alphabet. Then, looking into the eyes, I ask, “What happened to you that made you lose your way so badly?”
I think that remembering the humanity in those who have only one public identity of “Killer,” ” Rapist,” “Terrorist,” or “Abuser” can help us remember to hate the crime but feel grace and compassion for the criminal. Let the justice system handle giving them their due for their actions. Let your own heart remain unsullied by hating them for their crime.