The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

A Meditation on Love and Friendship

Recently, a friend of a friend was fired from their job.  It turns out they were probably fired without cause, but at first it looked like there might be a good reason.  A while back someone I know was fired for cause: they made inappropriate sexual remarks, in a PR position.  The company had reason to fire them.

I have made a point of being kind to that second person, even though he was at fault.

We all mess up, we all do things we regret later.

This isn’t even about forgiveness, this is about “I’m still your friend”, or “I still love you” if it’s that type of relationship.  It isn’t saying the guy who made the inappropriate comment shouldn’t have been fired, he should have been.

It is about saying “this isn’t all there is to you”.  It is about second chances: you pay the price for your screw-ups, but you get another chance, not least because many people who have done far worse things, and harmed people far more, will never pay any meaningful price (yes, Jamie Dimon and Barack Obama and George W. Bush, I’m talking about you.)

Grace isn’t about giving people what they deserve, it’s about giving them what they don’t deserve.

Deserve is the deadliest word: only a fool asks for what he or she deserves.  The wise ask, as it were, for their daily bread, for what they need and what’s good for them, maybe even for what they want, but not what they “deserve”.

Let us all, then, hope for grace, knowing that none of us is free of fault.


Too Much Money Chasing The Wrong Returns


Just forbid most retail stores from opening on holidays


  1. Mary McCurnin


    The hills fold
    into themselves
    like batter.
    Rotund, ocher, close cut,
    they roll and pitch
    as light curls around
    the immodest lady shapes.
    Darkness plunges quick
    into a wrinkle
    of dirt and rock.
    The black quiet,
    the cool underneath
    holds the world
    in place
    and grants us
    our individual
    and sympathetic

  2. Roger

    Beautiful –
    I pop in here ( lurk? )occasionally for inspiration, I’m never disappointed. Thank you!

  3. There is a prayer somewhere that asks that we will not get what we deserve, but that mercy will deliver that which we do not deserve. Or will not deliver that which we do deserve. Or both. Anyway, I liked it because it seemed to apply to me. Many people, most of all my wife, have givem me friendship which was purely gift.

    A nice thought to carry into the weekend.

  4. John H

    It is truly a nice sentiment, but — and there is always a but — there are many who “deserve” whatever punishment can be meted out, and you have mentioned but three who can never be forgiven nor forgotten for what they have done to so many with so little care or thought — I believe that this can be consider amoral or psychopathic behavior.

    Usually it is the “little people” who get what they do not deserve in the way of punishment and retribution; we desperately need to reverse that formula. Jailing 1% of the population for mainly junk crimes is unreasonable and inhumane when it’s many of the 1/100 of 1% of the wealth holders who need to be so confined.

    We who are still free need to be more responsible to those who are not while we remain able, but rarely willing. So I cannot step aside and forgive the unforgivable, the unrepentant who continue to walk free to and continue to do mass harm.

  5. A famous passage in Hamlet, to the effect that if we gave every man
    what he deserved “none should ‘scape a whipping.”
    An intelligent and lovely website–a pleasure to encounter. Thank you.

  6. wendy davis

    i wonder if you or others might expand on what you mean by ‘grace’. i’d tried once to write a diary on it, partly by request of a few others, but it never did gel for me. i’ve been playing with the jewish concept of ‘mitvah’, and i reckon that doing a good deed is very karmic, and rebounds to us, and i wonder if you see grace that way. i hadn’t thought of us conferring ‘grace’ so much as one human to another, really, but it does bear consideration.

    thanks, ian. and you, too, mary mccurnin, for your luscious poem.

  7. Ian Welsh

    I see grace as what you don’t deserve, Karma is what you do deserve, and I’m not entirely a fan, because if it exists, then it is a major contributor to the cycle of abuse.

  8. wendy davis

    (oh, dear, i misspelled the word ‘mitzvah’, and i even like the word and the concept.)

    i learned, and perhaps incorrectly, that karma is simply the law of cause and effect. whether or not it travels through other lives as some believe, or to the degree that it’s a *cosmic* law, i don’t know. but one thing i was taught was that we can indeed change our karma by making good ’causes’, whether by deeds, chanting sutras, spinning prayer wheels, sending out beams of love and light in our meditations, and so forth.

    so i’m stumbling over karma ‘being what we deserve’ as a contributor toward abuse.

    but: your friend who messed up and you stayed friends with…didn’t he actually earn your love and respect over time by his deeds, thus helping you with your decision to give him a second chance? and you reckoned he deserved it? earned it? created enough good karma or good will with you to have given him that bit of grace? would more egregious acts he might commit preclude the grace?

    it’s hard to translate the images in my mind, but i’d taken to seeing grace more as karma suspended for a time …in order that mercy or kindness could enter one (say your friend), and make light in us that would/could grow and spread. and that you acted to him with generosity of spirit, was a blessing that added light to you, as well.

    the others seem to grasp your meaning, so i may just share a common language with you all on this one. i just consider the more esoteric parts of human friendship and interactions quite a lot. i’ll stop now. (smile)

  9. Ian Welsh

    Live by the sword, die by the sword, is the essence of Karma. To be sure, most traditions teach that it can be changed, but often it isn’t. So, because you’ve done bad things in a previous life, in this life something bad happens to you. This may be a natural law (I don’t know if it exists at all), but if it is, well, it’s hard to not see it as leading to abuse: rape a rapist, and it’s still rape. A lot of this bad stuff happens to people (children) who have never had a chance in this life to change their karma, after all, or to adults whose life conditions are impoverished or who don’t believe in Karma.

    Perhaps my friend earned my friendship. But Grace, as from God, should it exist, is not earned, and that is what makes it Grace. If people only get what they deserve, God help us all, because what we deserve often isn’t the kindness and love we need.

  10. wendy davis

    thanks for clarifying further, ian. i’ll need to mull it over, again, partly because our beliefs don’t quite mesh. but that you brought God in as the agent of grace is a bit different than you’d implied earlier. complex stuff to communicate about.

    even as an apatheist, allow me to agree with ‘God help us all’. 🙂

  11. Ian Welsh

    It doesn’t have to be God, Grace is the good we don’t deserve.

  12. wendy davis

    ah, well, as i don’t believe in reincarnation, so the notion of trans-lifetime bad karma as explanation of human suffering rings hollow, meaning maybe i don’t believe in a more orthodox version of karma. nor do i believe that we are born in sin, and that promises of reaping our rewards in heaven for living morally, ethically, are just cons. but that children both here and around the planet suffer at the hands of other humans (war, hunger, constant fear, domestic and institutional violence, and more) causes me to conclude that they’re receiving the *opposite* of what they deserve.

    or maybe you would call them natural rights, instead? enough food and water, shelter, safety, loving-care, all sorts of justice; but we may be just crossed up on semantics. but i will keep in mind offering others a bit o’ grace when i can, although not reneging on second or third chances has proven hard for me at times.

    and oy; i’d forgotten that you still have your ‘convert to emoticons’ switched on. dinnae mean to submit that yellow dude.

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