Opinion: Settling scores

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He got what he deserved. Serves him right. Karma’s not too nice. There is a bit of naughty pleasure in the vindication when someone we judge seems to be judged by others. The speeder who cut us off in traffic moments earlier is now stopped by a state trooper. Smile. The libidinous cheater is shot by a jealous spouse. Well, it seems like just desserts. For some of us, this is all wrath-of-God stuff. Punishment. Retribution. Even the score.

But what of those who have earned the best? Do we find a longing to elevate the right-doing with the same fervor that might drive us to reprimand the wrong-doer? She deserves to be happy. Well, good for him. When the “right” person wins, we can claim a little more order to the world. We feel that our own efforts may be rewarded with success. Sure, it helps if the victor is likable. It is not fun to give credit to those who for one reason or another always seem to rub us the wrong way.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is a tough one for many. While one son is devoted to his family and works very hard, another is profligate and consumes far more than he produces. Upon his return after a long absence, the second son is welcomed by their dad with open arms and a big party. Son No. 1 is a bit offended. Shouldn’t he be? Where is the karma? Shouldn’t the party be for him, the “good” offspring?

In our rush to help create justice in the world, through our own imperfect filter, are we only reinforcing our own desire to even the score? If so, is it really our score to even? Does the universe owe us for our goodness?


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