Years ago, I saw a guy in a wheelchair with a sticker on the back that said in big bold letters, “Mean People Suck.” I didn’t give it much thought at the time, just the brief reflection that he clearly had a tough life and didn’t appreciate being belittled or mistreated by others. It’s a merciless world. This dude knew it well.
The longer I live, the more I agree with him. Mean people do suck. When any of us find ourselves in a place of weakness and suffering—whether outside of our control or a result of our own choices—it only adds insult to injury when someone berates us and kicks us when we’re down.
Three recent experiences reminded me how much human meanness sucks and why we all need divine mercy.
First, while watching the movie, A Star Was Born, I was struck by the contrast between mercilessness and mercy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a guy named Jackson, played by Bradley Cooper, who is both a famous country music star and a train-wreck addict. It is painful to watch as Jackson foolishly and persistently picks booze and drugs over his health, career, and relationships.
Remarkably, his girlfriend, Ally, played by Lada Gaga, refuses to give up on him. Even after becoming painfully aware of his problem, she chooses to marry him. Cleaning up mess after mess, she extends mercy over and over, even when her own music career is threatened by his debauchery.
Meanwhile, others opt for the more natural approach, repeatedly castigating him for the cost of knowing him. At one point, a manager begs him to get out of Ally’s life, to stop holding her back, so she can move on and succeed without him.
[Spoiler Alert] Tormented by the demons of condemnation in his own mind, now being echoed by others as well, Jackson chooses to take his own life.
This incredibly sad movie, though fiction, tells a story that is anything but fictional. It’s a narrative that is played out countless times in this screwed-up, merciless world.
Mean people suck.
Next, and this one is a true story, I read about a 911 dispatcher who received a call from a panicking Arkansas woman who found herself stuck in a flash flood. As the lady cried out in terror, begging for prayers and help, the dispatcher proceeded to mock her, to accuse her of blowing the situation out of proportion, and to lecture her on reasons to avoid moving water while driving. Yeah, real helpful. In the end of this one, the poor lady did drown. The responders finally arrived, but it was too late.
Mean people suck.
Finally, I read here where sports commentator and writer Stephen A. Smith recently scolded New England Patriots fans for their support of returning wide receiver, Josh Gordon. Although extremely talented and productive in the NFL, Gordon has also battled a drug addiction which has resulted in him being disciplined and released from teams numerous times. After another stint in rehab, he was recently re-activated by the Patriots. When coming onto the field in his preseason debut, the crowd erupted in applause. It was a beautiful moment of support for a struggling, but beloved, player. Meanwhile, here was Smith’s take on the whole thing:
“[C]hance after chance after chance after chance has been given to this young man and he has messed up. Now, he has messed up because he is an addict, I understand that. But when you’re cheering him on, you’re rooting for him…How much has that helped? That’s helped him come back, it didn’t help him stay. Somehow, some way, at some point and time, tough love is required. …I’m not trying to be hardcore. I just think that the priority should be cheering Josh Gordon on for a better life, not cheering him on to be a football player, because he has clearly missed the boat on that. He has messed up entirely too many times for me to applaud him in a football uniform.”
Mean people suck.
Are you with me? After reading those stories, I’m guessing you are. But, as much as we would all love to pig pile on these jerks, honesty forces us to admit that we’ve all been this person at times. We’ve all had the “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it” mentality. It’s natural.
Thankfully, the Gospel conveys a message of a God who is holy—completely unlike us. He is a God of radical and infinite mercy. Though our brokenness is all, in one way or another, a reflection of our fallenness, and though our own rebellion has invited much pain and suffering into our own lives as well as the lives of others, God looks on us with mercy. He has compassion for us, unceasing compassion. It may not be our nature, but it is His.
Psalm 103:8 says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” And when Jesus arrives on the scene, this is exactly what we see as He loves suffering people of all kinds: deaf, blind, lame, drunkards and gluttons, tax collectors and prostitutes. He gives and gives and gives to the point that it cost Him His own life, all for the good of others, all for those suffering through sin and its consequences.
We have a God of infinite mercy, a God who isn’t a jerk, but who is relentlessly for us even when we are weak, stuck, addicted, miserable. He doesn’t kick us while we’re down, but meets us where we’re at, and ministers His message of unconditional love and mercy. He does it through His word. He does it through an uplifting song we hear, or an inspiring movie, or the gracious words of a friend. He continually pours out mercy upon us in an otherwise merciless world.
Mean people may suck…But, He doesn’t.