There’s someone I know who’s never stood up to a certain bully in his life. He thinks there is some grace to be had in toleration and accommodation. Maybe there is, but it resembles no earthly morality. Any reward for such behavior is between him and God alone.

Watching him has been watching every step forward matched with two steps back. The problem stems from something specific: when you’ve decided you will tolerate the intolerable, you effectively say the intolerable is worth more than other priorities and people, not to mention the truth. He’s ditched friends who’ve said he hasn’t been treated well; he’s attacked others who raise small complaints in order to keep his mind off the larger mess that is his life. And he, in his own way, has become a bully.

The reason why I’m writing this is the sheer amount of self-delusion that has to be grappled with in talking to him. There’s nothing you can say that’s vaguely realistic or thoughtful. His entire mindset is distorted by his marriage and what he considers to be higher moral purpose in adopting his spouse’s crackpot mindset. He’s got strong opinions about where money should be spent and on others’ petty faults. The last time there was something pressing that concerned me I was treated very badly and never apologized to. I can’t forgive when no one thinks anything wrong was done.

I do know that we just had an argument and I’d better not back down. Another friend thinks delicate mindsets and hysterical behavior require a sensitive touch. For that friend, “sensitive touch” means “hide until everything’s calmed down.” I think it’s imperative to show that there are lines you can cross. If you can’t treat people well who are looking to communicate and treat you well because you’ve made up your mind about what is absolutely right and wrong, then you deserve the yelling you get. It’s a reminder that there’s more than one person in the world, that morality doesn’t stem from devotion to one alone. To love justice and walk humbly with one’s God does not mean thinking you’re doing the latter is the same as loving justice. Sometimes, humility is the worst sort of pride. It can be the dismissal of everyone else’s dignity, as “dignity” fails to even register.