Just like God
Is it possible to be spoiled by love?
It might be the linchpin issue that most divides parents in childrearing. One spoils and the other disciplines. While both are necessary, it sure is nice to be spoiled. And there are very few people in the world who will spoil you. If you had a spoiler in your past, you will no doubt remember them. Whether they ruined you is a matter of conjecture.
Spoiled begs the bigger question, whether it is better to be kind or just... because kindness is not just. It is indulgent. You are letting bad things slide. It reminds me of a parallel observation from theologian Reinhold Neibuhr - that forgiveness is the most unjust thing in the world. That is what you do when you overlook wrong. You fail to implement justice.
Everyone needs at least a bit of spoiling because life itself can be harsh. It spoils few people in the natural course of events. It needs those who can balance the equation - those spoilers out there who are few and far between.
I had a grandmother that I would call a spoiler. It was not that she was rich. To the contrary, she was as poor as a church mouse. Her eldest son (my Dad’s brother Harry Toop) had been in charge of her estate. He helped himself to it, transaction by transaction and eventually it became clear that she had been defrauded. Her only recourse might have been to sue, and she could not bring herself to sue her own son. Hence, her spoiling was the proverbial widow’s mite. All she had to give was love, and so she did.
My grandmother was a great listener who would weigh in with empathetic exclamations when you told her stuff. “Goodness, do tell? Well, I never heard the like of it!”. It was as if you were the only person in the world and you had her full attention. Whatever you had to tell her was terribly interesting and of the greatest importance. She also had a stock of pink peppermints that she stored in her purse. Somehow she was convinced that a lot of ills could be cured in the world if you offered someone a pink peppermint.
Primarily I loved my grandmother because she expansively withheld judgement and looked the other way when we heaped troubles on her listening ear. I am not sure if that is the just route, but I sure know how it felt. There was plenty she could have criticized us for - our long hair, our impulsiveness, or raw teen emotion brewing over the surface. But she didn’t say much, she just listened.
Love is a wait and see kind of mission. In this way it is related to faith. It is calculating that there is enough good in the world to balance the bad that life can bring. People who wager in this manner likely have some experience. They have seen some heartache and they do not want to add to it.
My grandmother originally hailed from England... her father was one of those hapless Brits who came here with dreams of a farm and had no idea what that would entail in practical terms. There is an almost comical photo once circulated with my grandmother and her sisters, dressed in Victorian finery having tea... in front of a half fallen down shack in the background. The ins and outs of weather and all else that comes with farming broke her father, he walked to town one day and never came back. He is buried in a pauper’s graveyard in Saskatchewan, away from the family plots. He had failed in life’s biggest test... love.
Nietzsche observed that those who gaze into the abyss become the abyss. But that is not necessarily so. Sometimes the most frail walk up and kiss despair on the lips and say ‘no, thank you’ and keep on walking. Somehow they resolve, that no matter how long it takes they are going to breathe some form of kindness in that great void.
My grandmother once said to me, that all you need in the world is one person who truly loves you. When you find them, chances are you have found a spoiler, and they are rare. Still, I have sometimes wondered what it would be like if everyone around you loved you unconditionally. It’s an unthinkable concept in this present world.
The Bible tells us, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9” I am convinced that those who have so successfully loved God have also loved their fellow man. Heaven will be a surprise of indulgent love.
In this manner Isaiah prophesied, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” Hebrews 12:13 tells us: “…make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”
Love does this, by offering hope that things still have the chance to change for the better. Of all the things in life, you certainly remember it most along with those who offered its expansive forgiveness. I know from experience that it is unassuming and endlessly kind and it smells of pink peppermints. Maybe love is not just, but it is just like God who smiles on the just and the unjust alike.
Irene Phelps... known by those who loved her as “Rene”, and known to me as Grandma.
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