The November 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month is In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All.

Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Use this forum to discuss the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris
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Sushan
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Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Sushan »

This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by JackDaydream »

Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
The default position may be one of immediate concerns whereas tuning into others' hardships requires a different approach or perspective. It may involve some kind of jolt or wake up call. The story of the Buddha speaks of his various experiences which involved awareness of suffering. The realisation of suffering may involve some experience of suffering, or, at least, a sense of gratitude or appreciation of the value of one's own fortunes. In some ways, turning away from the suffering of others may seem to be absurd. However, there may be some basic defence mechanisms which allow this, as a kind of numbing process. In Western civilisation, others' experience of hardship and suffering may be viewed from the lens of sensation. This may enable a distancing in which horrors are perceived as 'out there' and distant.

The remote stories of others may blur into a haze, as part of fabricated 'entertainment' and it may involve a wake-up, or shake-up before others' sufferings are taken on board as aspects of reality to be considered on an empathetic level of understanding and a perspective of compassion. It is likely that those who are most likely to be able to make this connection are those who have had a more intimate experience of personal suffering.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by stevie »

Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
There is a difference between mere intellectual understanding that might result from "intelligence" and the same understanding concomitant with being emotionally affected. It seems that engagement for the purpose of others depends on being emotional affected.
mankind ... must act and reason and believe; though they are not able, by their most diligent enquiry, to satisfy themselves concerning the foundation of these operations, or to remove the objections, which may be raised against them [Hume]
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
It is basic human psychology to view the world as being comprised (at the most basic level) of "us" and "them". Naturally we favor the members of us and disfavor the members of them. What differs (between individuals, societies and eras) is who are included in each group.

At one time it was more family vs not, then tribe vs not, now racial group, sexual orientation group, immigration status position and political party are dividing lines. Gender was once a popular dividing line.

I once verbalized that the event that would end racism would be if aliens landed on Earth. Then humans would be "us" and the aliens would be "them".
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others?
Because humans are naturally selfish, which is an odd tendency in an animal that relies so much on co-operative action to achieve its successes.


Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
We have not "become" so barbaric. We have always been so.

Even today, on the news, we see that Russia has attacked Ukrainian civilians, to punish them for their resistance. Not 'military targets', civilians. Barbaric, as you observe.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Papus79 »

A couple different things jump out at me, and they're both along the lines of Darwinian thrift:

1) The world generally doesn't go to those with the best values or the best expansions of empathy, it goes to those who can match sperm and eggs best, and since there are specific parameters to that (such as status for example) a lot of people just optimize for what's critical for getting their seed into the next generation - ie. not a lot of room for being 'human' without losing that race.

2) When the set and setting is so filled with not only zero-sum but negative-sum games, and many forms of success require algorithm over human, it turns into the sort of cut-throat competition where if someone else is doing poorly or oppress - great! Better them than me! Woohoo!... and yeah, that lasts about until the time they get oppressed, and the victors react in the same way.

it's not that humanity as a whole should or is like this, it's more like certain people came up with the idea that we could expand and improve values while completely forgetting that human vs. human competition, and really - to state it broadly - nature, works in this sort of manner. It means that most people trying to make paradise on earth - whether through political philosophy, self-help, secular humanism, even new age - get eaten by these traps because so many of the belief systems they take on in trying to make the world a better place completely forget or ignore that these dynamics exist.

Someone recently dropped a particularly interesting quote by a guy named Donald Kingsbury:
Tradition is a set of solutions for which we have forgotten the problems. Throw away the solution and you get the problem back. Sometimes the problem has mutated or disappeared. Often it is still there as strong as it ever was.
While there was a lot that was wrong that we had to fix, such as racism and sexism, we also demolished many instantiations of Chesterton's Fence, and we did so.... I really think high on fossil fuels... really thinking that what we have now comes from a superiority that we have to our ancestors, and really the only superiority we have is that we found ways to burn millions of years of stored sunlight to have this massive energy surplus that made what we have today possible.

At the end of the day I think there are certain mistakes that most people will make in every generation. Today's beliefs being the unshakable laws of reality is one of them. Another is the idea that if you give people the facts on an issue that they'll be able to come to sensible conclusions (which completely ignores motivated reasoning, conformity considerations, and furthermore whether or not the idea helps them beat other people in the fertility game).
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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JackDaydream wrote: October 9th, 2022, 2:50 pm
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
The default position may be one of immediate concerns whereas tuning into others' hardships requires a different approach or perspective. It may involve some kind of jolt or wake up call. The story of the Buddha speaks of his various experiences which involved awareness of suffering. The realisation of suffering may involve some experience of suffering, or, at least, a sense of gratitude or appreciation of the value of one's own fortunes. In some ways, turning away from the suffering of others may seem to be absurd. However, there may be some basic defence mechanisms which allow this, as a kind of numbing process. In Western civilisation, others' experience of hardship and suffering may be viewed from the lens of sensation. This may enable a distancing in which horrors are perceived as 'out there' and distant.

The remote stories of others may blur into a haze, as part of fabricated 'entertainment' and it may involve a wake-up, or shake-up before others' sufferings are taken on board as aspects of reality to be considered on an empathetic level of understanding and a perspective of compassion. It is likely that those who are most likely to be able to make this connection are those who have had a more intimate experience of personal suffering.
I agree. People that have suffered know the pain better. So it should be natural for them to feel compassionate about others' hardships. But the mysterious thing is even such people can merely turn away from those who suffer. Why?

In Lord Buddha's scenario, the prince was never exposed to any painful experiences. And he was shown no one who was suffering. So, literally, he knew nothing about pain, ailments, and suffering. The moment he saw an old guy, a patient, and a dead body (as per the buddhist literature) he began to think philosophically about suffering. I think this too suggests our innate nature of empathy, which sometimes need some waking up.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Sushan »

stevie wrote: October 10th, 2022, 2:25 am
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
There is a difference between mere intellectual understanding that might result from "intelligence" and the same understanding concomitant with being emotionally affected. It seems that engagement for the purpose of others depends on being emotional affected.
There is no use of being intelligent to simply understand "oh..he is in pain" and turn away. With today's technology even an AI can be trained to understand such a thing. So if someone does not get any feeling after seeing someone suffering, there is no real difference of him/herself and an advance AI.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Sushan »

LuckyR wrote: October 10th, 2022, 2:30 am
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
It is basic human psychology to view the world as being comprised (at the most basic level) of "us" and "them". Naturally we favor the members of us and disfavor the members of them. What differs (between individuals, societies and eras) is who are included in each group.

At one time it was more family vs not, then tribe vs not, now racial group, sexual orientation group, immigration status position and political party are dividing lines. Gender was once a popular dividing line.

I once verbalized that the event that would end racism would be if aliens landed on Earth. Then humans would be "us" and the aliens would be "them".
We always have biases towards various things. We apply it to fellow human beings as well. But I think it is different than 'us' vs 'them' when it comes to see someone who is suffering. We empathize more towards an innocent fellow who got killed accidentally by a mafia than a man who commited suicide after loosing all his money for gambling. Both have died. But we tend to rationalize the scenarios before feeling empathy (or sympathy).
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Sushan »

Pattern-chaser wrote: October 10th, 2022, 9:56 am
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others?
Because humans are naturally selfish, which is an odd tendency in an animal that relies so much on co-operative action to achieve its successes.


Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
We have not "become" so barbaric. We have always been so.

Even today, on the news, we see that Russia has attacked Ukrainian civilians, to punish them for their resistance. Not 'military targets', civilians. Barbaric, as you observe.
Talking about the war between Russia and Ukraine will be a political discussion. But when it comes to war, even the UN has understood the human tendency towards conflicts and has declared rules of engagement to rationalize actions during wars, and to differentiate between fair fighting and war crimes (what a joke 🤣. War itself is a crime). Yes, we always have been barbaric.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Sushan »

Papus79 wrote: October 10th, 2022, 10:16 pm A couple different things jump out at me, and they're both along the lines of Darwinian thrift:

1) The world generally doesn't go to those with the best values or the best expansions of empathy, it goes to those who can match sperm and eggs best, and since there are specific parameters to that (such as status for example) a lot of people just optimize for what's critical for getting their seed into the next generation - ie. not a lot of room for being 'human' without losing that race.

2) When the set and setting is so filled with not only zero-sum but negative-sum games, and many forms of success require algorithm over human, it turns into the sort of cut-throat competition where if someone else is doing poorly or oppress - great! Better them than me! Woohoo!... and yeah, that lasts about until the time they get oppressed, and the victors react in the same way.

it's not that humanity as a whole should or is like this, it's more like certain people came up with the idea that we could expand and improve values while completely forgetting that human vs. human competition, and really - to state it broadly - nature, works in this sort of manner. It means that most people trying to make paradise on earth - whether through political philosophy, self-help, secular humanism, even new age - get eaten by these traps because so many of the belief systems they take on in trying to make the world a better place completely forget or ignore that these dynamics exist.

Someone recently dropped a particularly interesting quote by a guy named Donald Kingsbury:
Tradition is a set of solutions for which we have forgotten the problems. Throw away the solution and you get the problem back. Sometimes the problem has mutated or disappeared. Often it is still there as strong as it ever was.
While there was a lot that was wrong that we had to fix, such as racism and sexism, we also demolished many instantiations of Chesterton's Fence, and we did so.... I really think high on fossil fuels... really thinking that what we have now comes from a superiority that we have to our ancestors, and really the only superiority we have is that we found ways to burn millions of years of stored sunlight to have this massive energy surplus that made what we have today possible.

At the end of the day I think there are certain mistakes that most people will make in every generation. Today's beliefs being the unshakable laws of reality is one of them. Another is the idea that if you give people the facts on an issue that they'll be able to come to sensible conclusions (which completely ignores motivated reasoning, conformity considerations, and furthermore whether or not the idea helps them beat other people in the fertility game).
1) Yes, life is a race from its very beginning (even before the beginning), and only the best will win. The rest have to either be satisfied with what they have or live with sadness and depression forever.

2) Yes, we all have that sensation when we win. Even though we see the pain in the face of the one who lost (and even if we choose to show that we feel sorry for them) we feel that ecstasy of winning. So we tend to seek for victory instead of sharing it with everyone else. And the various issues that have occurred due to this selfishness (named by various names) are being hidden under the blankets of tradition, history, custom, etc.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by JackDaydream »

Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:05 pm
JackDaydream wrote: October 9th, 2022, 2:50 pm
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
The default position may be one of immediate concerns whereas tuning into others' hardships requires a different approach or perspective. It may involve some kind of jolt or wake up call. The story of the Buddha speaks of his various experiences which involved awareness of suffering. The realisation of suffering may involve some experience of suffering, or, at least, a sense of gratitude or appreciation of the value of one's own fortunes. In some ways, turning away from the suffering of others may seem to be absurd. However, there may be some basic defence mechanisms which allow this, as a kind of numbing process. In Western civilisation, others' experience of hardship and suffering may be viewed from the lens of sensation. This may enable a distancing in which horrors are perceived as 'out there' and distant.

The remote stories of others may blur into a haze, as part of fabricated 'entertainment' and it may involve a wake-up, or shake-up before others' sufferings are taken on board as aspects of reality to be considered on an empathetic level of understanding and a perspective of compassion. It is likely that those who are most likely to be able to make this connection are those who have had a more intimate experience of personal suffering.
I agree. People that have suffered know the pain better. So it should be natural for them to feel compassionate about others' hardships. But the mysterious thing is even such people can merely turn away from those who suffer. Why?

In Lord Buddha's scenario, the prince was never exposed to any painful experiences. And he was shown no one who was suffering. So, literally, he knew nothing about pain, ailments, and suffering. The moment he saw an old guy, a patient, and a dead body (as per the buddhist literature) he began to think philosophically about suffering. I think this too suggests our innate nature of empathy, which sometimes need some waking up.
I am inclined to think that understanding of hardship is important although at times if feels as if philosophy is becoming more and more shallow. However, despite this tendency, it may be that those who seek philosophy in a deeper way come to it from a deeper level, especially in terms of making sense of suffering. Hopefully, even if philosophy dwindles to the shallow shadows of the superficial, on some level, it may prevail as a means of making sense of difficulties in life, even though philosophy may stand more as a discipline of looking at ideas critically. I wonder about the possibilities of philosophy as means of critical analysis but, also, as a way of making sense of the harshest experiences of human suffering.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by LuckyR »

Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:07 pm
LuckyR wrote: October 10th, 2022, 2:30 am
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
It is basic human psychology to view the world as being comprised (at the most basic level) of "us" and "them". Naturally we favor the members of us and disfavor the members of them. What differs (between individuals, societies and eras) is who are included in each group.

At one time it was more family vs not, then tribe vs not, now racial group, sexual orientation group, immigration status position and political party are dividing lines. Gender was once a popular dividing line.

I once verbalized that the event that would end racism would be if aliens landed on Earth. Then humans would be "us" and the aliens would be "them".
We always have biases towards various things. We apply it to fellow human beings as well. But I think it is different than 'us' vs 'them' when it comes to see someone who is suffering. We empathize more towards an innocent fellow who got killed accidentally by a mafia than a man who commited suicide after loosing all his money for gambling. Both have died. But we tend to rationalize the scenarios before feeling empathy (or sympathy).
I disagree. It is psychologically easier on the ego to suppose that the victim of random crime through no fault of their own is closer to ourselves (us) vs someone who is suffering because of self abusive life choices (not like us, since we are superior in our own eyes).
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by stevie »

Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:06 pm
stevie wrote: October 10th, 2022, 2:25 am
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
There is a difference between mere intellectual understanding that might result from "intelligence" and the same understanding concomitant with being emotionally affected. It seems that engagement for the purpose of others depends on being emotional affected.
There is no use of being intelligent to simply understand "oh..he is in pain" and turn away. With today's technology even an AI can be trained to understand such a thing. So if someone does not get any feeling after seeing someone suffering, there is no real difference of him/herself and an advance AI.
Yes that is what I've expressed.
mankind ... must act and reason and believe; though they are not able, by their most diligent enquiry, to satisfy themselves concerning the foundation of these operations, or to remove the objections, which may be raised against them [Hume]
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Good_Egg »

LuckyR wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:20 pm It is psychologically easier on the ego to suppose that the victim of random crime through no fault of their own is closer to ourselves (us) vs someone who is suffering because of self abusive life choices (not like us, since we are superior in our own eyes).
Seems like this is on the right track.

If bad things happen to Alfie and not to Bruno,, that calls out for explanation.

If the explanation is sheer bad luck that could happen to anyone, Bruno is likely to be more sympathetic than if the explanation is that Alfie made bad choices.

But sometimes the explanation is that it's just the sort of person Alfie is. Neither bad choices nor something that could happen to anyone. In which case sympathy is again likely to be limited. It does seem like the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong - life"s like that.
"For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" - James 1:20
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