Scarlet Letter

I saw her from a distance and I wasn’t even sure it was someone I knew, but she seemed familiar. When I got closer, I called out her name and sure enough it was a friend. She was crying and looked disheveled. Putting my arm around her shoulders, I asked her what was wrong.

She replied, “They even took my smile from me”. I felt agony in my heart. Clearly she was intoxicated and numbing her life pains on a regular basis. She was covered, head to toe, in words written in red ink. I asked her about the writing all over her body. Her answer surprised me for its genuine sincerity, “I figured if they are going to call me names, and label me, I may as well do that myself!”

A novel came to mind, “The Scarlet Letter”. The character in the story had been publicly disgraced because of her sinful actions. She was instructed by the community to wear a “red letter” upon her person as a badge of shame. I hadn’t thought about that book or its story in years, but here I was, face to face with its representation. And my friend had put it upon herself!

An irritation bothered me, but I stayed silent about it. I could see the insidious lie cleverly disguised. Self-righteousness was not only covering my friend, it was covering the people everywhere, all of us. She had put the pen to her own skin, but that was the cleverness in the lie. Just reinforce the words of how sinful she was and she’d accept it as truth. No one need feel guilty for a thing; after all, we didn’t actually write on her skin ourselves did we?

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