But how about the REALLY BIG things? How well do you handle that kind of forgiveness? How well can anybody handle it?
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. [Mahatma Gandhi]
The first time I personally witnessed genuine forgiveness in the face of something seemingly unforgivable occurred some years ago, when the widowed mother of one of Smarticus' coworkers opened her home and heart to a troubled teenager in need. The girl robbed, brutally attacked and killed that loving lady, but our friend forgave that girl, completely and absolutely. By Mahatma Gandhi's definition, she was (and remains) a very strong woman. She forgave... even when forgiveness wasn't asked of her.
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. [C.K. Chesterton]
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... do to us what you will, and we will still love you. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]
... we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And one day, we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves. We will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]
It took a while, but Mr. Wilson had a change of heart and came to regret the things he'd done as a young man. Hounded by his conscience, he went to Washington, D.C. in 2009 and offered a face-to-face heartfelt apology to Rep. Lewis. Not only was forgiveness granted, but the men embraced... and together, they wept.
Love can... and did... overcome evil.
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On October 2, 2006, 32-year old Charles Roberts, a husband and father of three, entered the one-room West Nickels Mine Amish School in Pennsylvania, ordered the boys and adults to leave, and then he tied up ten little girls between the ages of six and thirteen. He shot all ten girls, killing five, and then he killed himself.
In the hours after the killings, an Amish man named Henry visited the shooter's parents to give them a message. He put his hand on the father's shoulder and called him... friend. Not only did the entire Amish community forgive the killer's parents; the couple was embraced as part of their community. Men and women, some of whom had lost daughters at the hand of Charles Roberts, approached his parents to offer condolences over the loss of their son. Thirty of them attended Roberts' funeral... so they could form a wall to block out media cameras. In the years since the attack, the relationship between the Amish community and the Roberts family flourished, demonstrating over and over again the unstoppable powers of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Mrs. Roberts died this summer, but during her 13-year battle with cancer, members of the Amish community provided endless support, love, and assistance to her and her family.
Forgiveness is the final form of love. [Reinhold Niebuhr]
Hopefully, none of you have anything so horrific to forgive, but here's the thing. Holding a grudge about something, big or small, whether it occurred years and years ago or as recently as today, only serves to strengthen the venom of hatred. So if you think about it, withholding forgiveness is like trying to poison someone else by swallowing the poison yourself.
Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner. [Max Lucado]
So why a post about forgiveness? Because there's an enormous amount of vitriol in today's world, threatening to tear us apart by building walls between us and dividing us by our perceived differences. But we are far more alike than different, and we don't need more walls. We need bridges of love, compassion, and forgiveness to bring us together. In the face of insane happenings in the world, I must believe that love can... and will... overcome evil. And it begins with each one of us.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. [St. Francis]
Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. [Mother Theresa]