I have a client let’s call him Mark, who a deep crush on his seventh grade classmate, lets call her Nina. Mark had a crush on Nina in sixth grade. In seventh, Nina left his friend group and Mark started drinking beer every day. Although the two went different paths in life the human connection was real. Twenty years later Mark found Nina on facebook and chatted her up. Impressed by the attention, and nostalgic for Mark’s 12-year-old style of romance, Nina agreed to meet him at a restaurant. Mark seemed his same sweet self, if dim-witted, self. He told her of his rambling life of drugs and petty crime, his being in and out of jail, his desire to make a new life for himself. Nina refused his invitation to be his girlfriend, but she agreed to give him a job selling purses and accessories at trade shows.
Mark worked for Nina three or four times, but she fired him because he was an irresponsible worker. Mark became angry, later that day he came to her house, punched her and took her car. During the year he spent in jail he wrote her every week. The letters became more insistent that she respond, he threatened to send people to hurt her family. He called her as much as he could, dialing her ten or twenty times in a stretch. She was afraid to be at her home because of the harassment.
When he was released from jail he was fitted with a GPS device. He went to Nina’s house, waited for her to arrive with her son, and pushed her inside. Her son went to the backroom and called the police. Mark savagely beat Nina until the woman next door came and in and told him to stop. The neighbor found him standing over her her, holding a tire iron. He fled when she told him to leave. Clumps of her hair were found in various places in the room.
Nina’s life was never the same. She was still plagued with health problems due to the internal injuries from the attack, which remained after three surgeries. She lost her business as crippling anxiety kept her from selling in public as she used to. At the time of Mark’s trial, she was struggling to make ends meet, having been denied disability benefits.
After the trial, Mark wrote the judge in an effort to receive leniency in sentencing. He explained:
I admit my wrongs and I am aware of what caused me to act in such a inhumane manner, I understand I am not the best of people, but inside lives a person who does have good intentions but unfortunately I struggle of substance abuse & misfortune – I do believe I acted under the influence of a broken heart.
Undoubtedly Mark was right. Human behavior is always worse under the influence of a broken heart. After spending his teenage years drunk or stoned every day, after his criminal record made him unemployable, I am sure he was heartbroken to realize that in the state he was in, he would never be valued by anybody. If Mark was more introspective he might have turned his rage and violence against himself. Instead, his pride, combined with his heartbreak — an unceasing disappointment in his own condition– led to a sustained rage against the woman with whom he was so disappointed. Having nothing but his pride to lose, he turned to violence for satisfaction. It is an all-too-familiar story. The “influence of a broken heart” plays out in almost all violence and passion, collective and individual.
Mark is the sort of man that David referred to as a miscarriage in the 58th Psalm — among those who “go astray as soon as they are born”.Whatever that thing we call Mark is — a soul, a person, an animal, a monster, a child of God — it is not going to be worthy of our love and forgiveness. Reason and our law of right and wrong have made Mark forever guilty of bringing his brand of heartbreak on this woman and ruining her life. His crime cannot unhappen, and his disappointment will remain as long as he has reason and memory. Like the vindictive king, many of the people of California would have been happy if he had been aborted before birth, and at the very least, condemned to prison for as long as possible. What sort of salvation from himself or his community can he find under these circumstances?
No matter what church you hail from, is there something that your religion can point to that will free him the expectations he had of himself, the expectations that his community had of him? Is there some reprieve from the ultimate source of these expectations?
A scientific materialist might say that nature offers no reprieve for Mark. They might agree with King David that there is no hope for such people, that they cannot be saved, and are better off dissolved to nothing, imprisoned, condemned or aborted.
The LDS might tell Mark that he can find joy now through first abandoning his evil mind and adopting the right practice. If he does, the Spirit will be there to help him do that if he really wants to be good. If he is worthy, he will be blessed and exalted, if not he will find himself loved by God after he suffers for his sins.
To the LDS, I would ask, is there something that offers joy and love to the worthy and unworthy alike? What words will point Mark to that joy?