I see that an actor from Coronation Street has got himself in trouble for his view of karma when he claimed that victims of sex abuse were paying back for the sins of a previous life. He has been attacked for a simplistic view of the law of karma, which is doubtless the case even if those of us who believe in a universe governed by justice must admit that he may not be entirely wrong either. For if we do insist on that then we are also proposing that the universe is quite random and without purpose, and that at its centre there really is a black hole not a loving heart.
Here we have one of the oldest metaphysical problems. Why do innocents suffer? If we believe in God, we must believe in justice. If we believe in reincarnation then we must accept that our current experiences are likely to be the outcome of past actions but, and I think this is very important, we must think that in relation to ourselves and ourselves alone. When it comes to others we have been told not to judge, and we have also been told to have compassion for all beings for “what you do to the least of these you do to me”. We have no idea what anyone else may or may not have done in a previous life, and we cannot know why they experience what they do. We can assume nothing and we can judge no one. Suffering may be a karmic consequence of past behaviour but it may also be part of a lesson we have requested before birth in order to speed up our spiritual development. It might also be a sacrifice we have accepted in order to assume a share of world karma, and, by bearing a portion of humanity’s burden, relieve some of that burden. Obviously atheists will dismiss all this as a desperate attempt to cling on to a belief in a just and ordered universe despite evidence to the contrary. However any pattern, which may appear completely jumbled and meaningless when you look at it from too close up, will reveal itself as coherent when you adopt the correct vantage point, which in this case is the metaphysical one.
So the way we should think of karma is in terms of how our present behaviour might affect us in the future. Forget the past and what you may have done. Think only of what you do (and think) now, and realise that the only person you should be concerned about in this respect is yourself. As for others, never judge because you do not know. Besides, whatever the reason for another's suffering, the only response of a spiritual person is compassion. If you respond with anything less then maybe you are creating some karma for yourself.