Choosing compassion over condemnation

I have watched with great interest over the past couple of weeks as Whitney Houston went from being perceived as a washed-up addict to a veritable saint in the eyes of the public. As tributes began pouring in from celebrities and fans, many expressed their belief that she was finally at peace in heaven. Family and friends said they knew without a shadow of doubt that she was with Jesus. Where she had been ridiculed only days and hours before, she was now being proclaimed the newest angel in paradise.

We tend to do that when people pass away. It becomes much harder to pass judgement on someone when they are no longer around to defend themselves. Death also reminds us all of our own mortality, and of our desire that other people not be too harsh in their judgment of our lives.

The morning of the day she died, I spent several minutes perusing photographs of her looking rather disheveled as she left a recent event and thought to myself that she probably wouldn’t live long. I was heartbroken when the news came in later that evening.

I have been a fan of Whitney for several years, and although I wouldn’t describe myself as a “fanatic,” I did purchase her albums as they were released (I actually have over 20 compact discs of her music), watched her movies, and always rooted for her to overcome whatever demons she was fighting at any particular time. Even though I liked her a great deal and followed her career, I don’t think I realized just how important her faith was to her until this weekend.

As I watched her funeral on Saturday, Whitney’s personal friends and family members recounted over and over how she prayed constantly, read her Bible, and quoted verses. Her bodyguard said she refused to go anywhere without her tattered Bible, even leaving clothes behind in order to have enough room for it in her suitcase. In a television interview, a minister friend recalled how Whitney recently laid prostrate on the floor as she prayed and spoke in tongues while begging God for deliverance from her addictions. Even the last song she sang publicly just two nights before she died was “Jesus Loves Me.”

On Sunday night, Oprah rebroadcast the interview she had done with Whitney a couple of years ago. Whitney had just revealed her obviously painful battle with drug abuse and the dissolution of her troubled marriage to Bobby Brown when Oprah asked the poignant question “Who do you love?” Without a moment of hesitation, she replied, “The Lord.”

So, what I know now is Whitney Houston had an astonishing love for God. She might not have been living what some would describe as a “Christian lifestyle,” but she certainly didn’t have a problem with faith. She wholeheartedly believed in Jesus, salvation, and the hereafter. Despite many shortcomings in other areas of her life, no one can accuse her of not taking her faith seriously.

As society replaces its condemnation of Whitney with a more compassionate understanding, I wonder why we have to wait until someone dies to show them any mercy and respect. Maybe if we would look a little deeper, beyond the image projected on people by a ruthless and merciless media, we might see how each person we take so much joy in building up and tearing down is still just as human as we are. We all have flaws, we all make poor decisions, and we are all worthy of a little grace and compassion.

If I should die this very day
Don’t cry ’cause on earth we weren’t meant to stay
And no matter what the people say
I’ll be waiting for you after the judgement day

– lyric from “Your Love Is My Love” by Whitney Houston

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

2 thoughts on “Choosing compassion over condemnation”

  1. Beautiful post, Brian. She had an incredible faith. She was a Christian. I’m amazed at how “christianity” in particular puts so much emphasis on behavior…. dos and don’ts… instead of belief and faith. The impression is given that if one believes they will never have struggles, addictions, “demons” with which to contend. We are all “saints” and we are all “sinners”.

    Many artists who impacted the world in profound ways also had the deepest spiritual struggles. Vincent Van Gogh, for example, had faith that was genuine and conflicted. He knew “the dark night of the soul” and still knew the joy of life intimately. Van Gogh fought for some kind of personal equilibrium, and lost the battle. At least one of the most prolific hymn writers, one whose popular hymns are sprinkled throughout most any Protestant hymnal (although the name escapes me at the moment) struggled with very deep and prolonged bouts of depression.

    Wrestling with “demons” does not mean that a person lacks faith. I agree with you, Brian, that if we could just give each other mercy and respect–genuine love rather than judgment–what a difference it would make. Often in our harsh judgments we add unbearable weight to someone’s already unbearable struggle. Yes, “we are all worthy of a little grace and compassion.”


    1. Thank you, Jim. The denomination I grew up in seems to place more emphasis on works than most, and although I have been trying for years, it is sometimes difficult for me to turn off the thought patterns in my head. Verses like “Judge not lest ye be judged” were overlooked in favor of verses like “Faith without works is dead” and “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

      I spent some time thinking about the “faith without works” verse the other morning. One site I visited said it might be one of the most misunderstood passages in scripture. The author pointed out it was written to people who were already Christians, so obviously you can get to heaven with faith alone.

      I wish I had some of Whit’s faith. I’d settle for a portion about the size of a mustard seed. ;)

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