The evening is welcomed, with its quiet and dark, peaceful stars and cool breeze. There are days to get through, and this was one of them.

Discernment is a tricky art. There are many aspects, and nuances innumerable. We often think of discernment in clear rights and wrongs, in directions to go, in words to say, or not say. This week there has been a different taste of discernment. Understanding the nuances of being sinned against, and the appropriate response.

A neighbor who visits infrequently came this last weekend. He talks the talk of Christianity, but when it comes to his home all the conversation is what he is going to add or other topics seeking to show his worth through money. He has a sick soul, an orange county kind, in which the game is to alternately impress those around and assert your being on them. He put up a sign, hanging it on a sign holder made for this house. When asked why, he said the fire department said he needed a sign and the sign holder was community property.

Turns out the fire department said no such thing. He was lying, in order to assert himself, his being, on others, peeing on the tree, marking his territory. An outworking of a sick soul, whose pride masks a corrupted inside, knowing the words but not having the heart of Christ. An emaciated soul, filled with twinkies instead of meat.

Another, a painter, who did several days of great work, took several days off, then came up completely different, sick of soul, full of rage and frustration at issues beyond his control, unrelated to this job. But, his work and words suffered, his anger evident, his quality lost.

He was being paid, not an insignificant amount, and in reality acted much worse. But, for him, my heart goes out, prayers go up. His is a damaged soul.

One whose pride causes him to assert himself, another whose frustration with life causes him to lose himself. The first a Christian, in name at least, the second… spiritually alert and buffeted by forces unseen.

My heart goes out to the second, not to the first, to the man whose struggle with money and a lifetime of hurt finds him lost.

The world would say to make amends with the neighbor and be harsh with the painter.

I know who Jesus would smile on, and comfort, not letting the affairs of business get in the way of a hurting heart. Few words would he say to the one whose life allows for great opportunity, lost and forsaken in the wilderness of vainglory, voluntarily spent, willfully lost.

Some might say that both deserve kind words and reconciliation. I don’t see that in the Gospels. Jesus comforted those who had no other comfort, and despised those who had the world singing their praises. He knew the cause and root of sin in each, and knew that the most egregious was not always the most vile, and the least offense could point to a thoroughly rotten core.

The lesson of the week.