In my role as a law enforcement chaplain, I have been serving victims of unspeakable crimes for 30 years. I am that person who shows up on a person’s doorstep with a law-enforcement officer to break the news that will change a person’s life forever. And, I am also the trained professional who offers support to victims in the aftermath of criminal and traumatic events.
Therefore, I view the victim’s impact statements made by 18-year old Brandt Jean in a different light than most. I will duly note that the reaction to his words, and his now world-known hug have been all over the place. I have carefully processed all of the responses. In most cases, the issues raised are worthy of attention. They are important issues. As journalists and theologians alike, critique his actions I keep having one recurring thought.
Has it ever occurred to those who share their critiques in widely circulated newspapers, or Christian publications how their words might impact Brandt? Keep in mind, he IS 18-years-old.
This young man lost his older brother. His brother died a violent death. His family has been the center of media attention. As a young man, he continues to watch other family members cope with their grief every single day. I feel deep compassion for him. His life has been changed forever. He needs support and comfort from every possible source.
Brandt made the choice to verbalize his forgiveness to Amber Guyger. But, he also spoke boldly to her, as he shared his faith. And, he chose to hug her. That was his choice. No one coerced him. Individuals on social media and journalists alike are literally picking apart his actions. I wonder if it ever occurred to them that the actions in court were healing for him. Do such individuals really care about him? Are they thinking about him, before they write? Has it ever occurred to them that they could be causing him harm with their words? He is a young man experiencing unspeakable grief.
I consider it a sacred privilege to serve victims of all kinds of traumatic events. I have learned a few things from crime victims over the past 3 decades. A couple of those lessons apply to this situation. Every individual heals differently. Every person’s journey of grief following a violent death is very unique. Brandt’s experience is unique. Let us respect his grief journey. And that means respecting the choices he made in court. Secondly, people’s insensitive words cause untold hurt to the grieving. I have read some things this week that have tremendous potential to hurt Brandt Jean. I can’t fathom harming him. I hope you can’t either. He is a real person. Careless words can do permanent damage. Let us all be quick to listen and slow to speak…