Last week, I wrote an article discussing my disappointment at how quickly a small number of my friends had turned their backs on me at the slightest whiff of suspicion. This article led to quite a bit of introspection. Why had their betrayal cut so deeply, even though it was really only a few people against the many who have been quite supportive?
The answer was clear. I would not have done the same to them.
As I discussed previously, the first I heard about the allegations against Jeff Mach was on January 23rd. Although we had never been particularly close personally, I had worked with Jeff for 12 years, and I considered him a friend. When a friend is attacked, a good person's first instinct should be to stand by that friend and then look into the reasons for the attack and determine if the friend might be in the wrong. Anyone who abandons a friend and then assesses if they have made an error has a moral deficiency.
A mere 5 days later, I agreed to sign off on a letter that pushed Jeff Mach out of his own company, effectively ending his career and business. Five days after first hearing the allegations against Jeff Mach, I signed his professional death warrant.
It had been suggested that I was secretly working with Jeff Mach after this time. While not entirely accurate, I had not cut him off completely either. After being pushed out, Jeff Mach was left with nothing but debt. No assets. No money. No income. There was a very real danger that he would either starve or simply commit suicide. My involvement was to work to make sure that he was paid for the very valuable property he was giving up. He would have been paid about 1/8 of what it was really worth and the payments would have been spread out over 3 years, but it would have given him enough of a chance to survive.
Redemption is not possible if you do not live long enough to see it.
I am a Christian. The first tenet of my religion is love, – explicitly loving the enemy and the unlovable – but following shortly after is the concept of sin and redemption. These are often misunderstood, but, put simply, everyone has sin – everyone misses the mark – because we are all human and we are all imperfect. How that sin manifests is different for different people, but we all have it. The only path to redemption for sin is what is called repentance, which is a fancy word for admitting that you are not perfect, have done wrong, and that you don't want to do wrong anymore – and then you change your ways.
Before a man can repent, he must first survive.
My first choice was a choice of loyalty. My second choice was a choice of justice (or betrayal, only God can judge.) My third choice was a choice of compassion.
There are those who say that, from the beginning, I should have abandoned Jeff, my friend of 12 years whom I subsequently condemned less than one week later. They suggest that at the first intimations by people, whom I did not know well, that he had done wrong I should have thrown him to the wolves.
There are those who say that I should have left Jeff to starve or even commit suicide in silent solitude and despair.
If you are friends with such a person, I might suggest that you should look very closely at your relationship with this person. This is not a person who will stand by you when you encounter your hardest times. This is a person who lacks the virtue of loyalty.
The concept of compassion and redemption goes much deeper than simply believing that a friend can be redeemed of his wrongs. Over the past two months, some people have done and said some terrible things to me. People have said what one might call unforgivable things: statements so insulting to my character, my reputation, and my morals that one might say that they can never be redeemed.
I do not believe in unforgivable sins. Even for the worst of these people, I understand that if I had been born with their DNA, to their parents, raised in their childhood, experienced their experiences, I would do the exact same things that they have done. When you realize that this basic truth applies to every person you will ever meet, you understand that either everyone can be redeemed or no one can.
For this reason, if any one of these people, even those who have said the most egregious, hurtful, insulting things were to come to me and express a desire for peace between us, I would be open to a dialog. There would likely never be friendship or trust, but there could certainly be peace and possibly one day forgiveness.
There are times when my anger may get the best of me, times when I may forget that my path is not the path of hate, and that is when I am truly grateful to the many wonderful and loyal friends that I can count on, not only to support me, but to protect me from my own demons.
I have been accused of many things the past couple months, but I believe that I made three choices early on, and at the time I believe I chose loyalty, justice, and compassion.
Note: In this article I mention that I am driven by love due to being a Christian. That kind of love is not exclusive to Christianity. Almost every major religion preaches concepts of love and forgiveness, including Humanism. Christianity just happens to be the source of love that inspires me. God’s love is a house with many doors, and you may access it through Judaism, Islam, Budism, Wicca, Humanism, or any other path which brings you joy and peace.