Thoughts on brokenness, humanity,and compassion from Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy”

I recently finished Bryan Stevenson’s tremendous new book, “Just Mercy.” It is a powerful study of the inhumanity that continues to plague the criminal justice system in America. It draws you in, then breaks your heart. Toward the end of the book, I found some passages that beautifully articulate the connection between brokenness, humanity, and compassion. These passages resonated with feelings I have often had so I wanted to share:

“We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent…The ways in which I have been hurt – and have hurt others – are different from the ways Jimmy Dill [wrongfully sentenced to death and executed] suffered and caused suffering. But our shared brokenness connected us.” (p. 289)

“I guess I’d always known but never fully considered that being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” (p. 289)

“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.” (p. 289)

“I understood that even as we are caught in a web of hurt and brokenness, we’re also in a web of healing and mercy…The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.” (p. 294)

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