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Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson is the sequel to the book A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder where I discusses suffering here.
This sequel reintroduces some minor characters from the first book, and we get to learn more about them. There is one man that is a jerk in the first book, and I disliked him. By the end of the sequel, I’m full of compassion and crying for him even though I learned of evil actions he has committed.
I wanted to know if my daughter had the same experience.
I asked her, “Did you hate the journalist in the first book but liked him in the second and cried at the ending because you felt so much for him?”
She answered, “Yes.”
I continued, “Do you find it interesting we hated him when he was a jerk. Then, in the sequel, we learn of evil actions, and had compassion for him and wanted the town to forgive him for his actions?”
We then discussed whether or not he was culpable for the evil he helped as he was a child and only following orders from his father. My daughter thinks he holds no responsibility; I beg to differ and think he has some but not all. While the 4th Commandment does require us to Honor our Mother and Father, the Commandment only holds when honoring the parent will work towards the good of the child, family, or society.
But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so. CCC 2217
My daughter and I both agreed that the child knew he was helping his father commit very evil deeds at some point. However, I think he had options, and my daughter does not.
While that was an interesting debate with my daughter, it is not my main focus. Instead, I want to discuss why we had so much compassion and mercy for this character despite the crimes he helped commit. I desired the mob to grant him forgiveness – which they did not.
The difference is what the reader sees in this character that the mob never did – his contrition. He, as an adult, understood the full ramifications of his actions as a child and was immensely sorrowful.
I thought a lot about King David’s great sin, yet we hold David in high regard as Christians. The Bible (1 Sam 13:14) describes David as a “man after God’s own heart.” St. Paul tells us this means David did everything God wanted Him to do (Acts 13:22). While, I’m not going to disagree with St. Paul, I would like to discuss the idea that God’s heart is full of love and mercy. Thus, a person after God’s own heart is one who desires mercy.
David sought the Lord’s mercy in Psalm 51 (excerpts):
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always.
The Bible is FULL of examples of God’s mercy and describes God as merciful. There are too many for me to give as examples, and as Christians, we could argue it is the entire point of the Old and New Testament. That God is a loving and merciful Father and sent ” His Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Part of the reason we admire King David is because of his profound contrition. I had such compassion for the character of this book because he was so sorrowful for his sins and understood the gravity and harm they had caused. If he had made excuses for his actions or downplayed the seriousness of them, I probably would have continued not to like him.
Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contrition as:
Sorrow of the soul and hatred for the sin committed, together with a resolution not to sin again. Contrition is the most important act of the penitent, and is necessary for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance (pg. 872).
God’s mercy will always be there for those with contrite hearts:
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. Ps 51:19
Note: I am not suggesting we can only offer forgiveness of others only when the perpetrator(s) have contrition. We forgive others for our own sake and souls, not for them. We forgive others even when there are no signs of sorrow from them. We hope in God’s justice.