Compassion may not the be first word people use to describe The Stain, but to me, it is the very heart of the story.
To be human IS to be flawed. This is an intentional design within the construct we live in. We long for perfection, expect perfection, then become upset because “God” did not make anything perfect for us. Some say there can be no God because, just look at all of these flaws! We miss the point that the true gift of life is having choices and experiences we can learn from, not an easy path. This world is like a wild amusement park ride. If everything was perfect, there would be no uncertainty, no highs or lows and nothing interesting would ever happen. There would be no drama. We love drama!
The Stain challenges us with characters who are flawed in ways we are uncomfortable with - Cassandra should have known better, Sergei should have told her the truth, Slava should not have become sexual with another man's wife. That’s a lot of “shoulds.” And yet, these characters are also likable in various ways.
If we can understand how Sergei developed his disorder, perhaps we can see him as a multidimensional human being who means well but has a limited capacity for consistency in his nobler intentions. Maybe we can suspend judgment long enough to understand why Cassandra committed adultery and Slava pursued a married woman.
And if we can find compassion for these fictional characters, perhaps we can extend that same compassion to ourselves and the people we are closest to.
Don’t humans respond better to understanding and encouragement than condemnation?
Images courtesy of the Canva pro media library.