Friday, October 27, 2017

Building Bridges

Thought for the day:  Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.  [C.S. Lewis]

Most of us encounter countless little grievances every day, whether it's someone cutting us off in traffic, stepping on our toes, or hurting our feelings in some way, and for most of us, those things are fairly easy to forgive.

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]

[image courtesy of wikipedia]
Then there's another case of forgiveness, in which the evil-doer did ask for forgiveness. For many years, Elwin Wilson, filled with hatred, supported numerous KKK activities, including the brutal 1961 beating of iconic freedom fighter John Lewis, who later became (and still is) a member of Congress. Like most civil rights pioneers, Lewis did not resist.

... 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.

[image courtesy of Morguefile]

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.

In this photo, Terri Roberts holds a photo of her son, and over her shoulder is a hand-carved gift... Forgiven... which was presented to her by the Amish community shortly after the shooting. But the community didn't just give her and her husband a lovely wall-hanging... they gave them the immeasurably priceless gift of forgiveness.

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]

71 comments:

  1. I am awed.
    I try to forgive, but am not as big as the people you have cited. Not nearly as big. A work in progress, despite knowing that hanging on to a grudge is mainlining poison.

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    1. We're all works in progress, but I think knowing about the enormous capacity for forgiveness others have shown is inspiring and provides us with incentive to try harder.

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  2. Hatred damages no one but the hater.The one(s) you are hating probably don't know or don't care, while you are suffering from the hatred eating you up.
    Sometimes forgiveness isn't as easy as saying I forgive you, but that is a good beginning.
    I'm not one to hold grudges, that was my mother, she always took things too personally, and wasn't able to see there might be many reasons for what someone has done or said. Reasons that had nothing to do with Mum.

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    1. Good point. It's sad to consider how many people sour their whole lives by seething over some personal grievance, when the targets of their animosity are happily living their lives, unaware of any "problem."

      My father took everything anyone in the world did as a personal affront to him, too. In the end, he was a very bitter and lonely man.

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  3. Great post. Bearing grudges and being angry with others consumes our energy and destroys us, we really need to let go. Thanks for speaking about this very important problem which blights so many lives. Have a great weekend, hugs, Valerie

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    1. Thanks. Yeah, anger and grudge-bearing are definitely destructive forces, and it's tough to see anyone self-destruct by hanging on to them.

      You have a super weekend, too. :)

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  4. Hi Susan - wonderful post ... giving us examples of hate, then the compassion and forgiveness that came out from each of the acts that occurred. I love the phrase: 'bridges of love, compassion, and forgiveness' - all of us need to forgive as we go, and be out there leading by example and helping others ... a really great post - thanks ... just what we need in today's world.

    Have a peaceful weekend - Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary. Thank you, dear lady. Indeed... What the world needs now is love, sweet love...

      Peace to you, too. And cheers! (We mustn't forget the cheers!)

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  5. One of the best gifts you can give to yourself is to forgive. We need to forgive others and sometimes we even have to forgive ourselves. To be forgiven we must forgive. Good thoughts today for sure and hope your have a great weekend!

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    1. I must confess to being harder on myself than I am on others at times, so you're right... sometimes we have to forgive ourselves, too.

      You have a great weekend, too!

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  6. What a beautiful post! I remember reading about the Amish murder and being astounded by the Amish community's capacity for forgiveness. Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Thank you. The way the Amish community reacted to the killings astounded a lot of people.

      You have a wonderful weekend, too. :)

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  7. This was beautiful, Susan. Forgiveness is hard and when we read about extraordinary examples as you have written about, we are in awe. I remember that horrible incident in Lancaster (not far from my home) and how shattering it was to the community. It was unthinkable that this could happen and then that these families, whose lives were forever changed, could forgive and then embrace the family of the perpetrator, was beyond what most people could grasp and understand. It was so inspiring (not a good enough word), that it questioned my own ability to be so generous of spirit. I am so grateful that I have never been tested and those incidents in my life where I have been hurt and slighted have all been forgivable. Life is too short to hold grudges and it is so much easier to show kindness as that always comes back to you.

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    1. Since you live in such close proximity to the Amish community, I'm sure you're aware of a lot more details about the way they embraced the Roberts family than most of us. Their behavior is a beacon of inspiration for all of us, but I fear most of us would fall short of living up to their example. All we can do is try.

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  8. Those are some amazing stories of forgiveness.
    Holding a grudge only hurts the one holding it. I feel sorry for those who can't let go, can't forgive, or can't even say they are sorry. They live in a dark place.

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    1. You're right. They live in a very dark place, and they're usually all alone.

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  9. such a lovely post and so needed in this world. I always thought the Amish community was awesome and back when that shooting incident occurred, I was even more in awe. Thanks for putting so much thought and work into this.
    Have a good weekend

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    1. Thanks, kiddo. I'm glad you liked it. The Amish have a lot to teach us, and they mostly do it by quietly setting a good example.

      You have a good weekend, too!

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  10. I tend to forgive most things, not sure I could something huge like them, but I wouldn't dwell on it. That would just let them win anyway. Screw that. But even if I forgive, if they come back around and try the same crap again, I don't forget. Never the fool twice, hopefully lol

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    1. Not dwelling on something is the next best thing to forgiveness, and forgiving and forgetting are two different things.

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  11. This is one of the most difficult things to do in life. Well done to the Amish community.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. You're right. It can be very difficult, but the most important things are rarely easy. The Amish are remarkable people.

      Greetings back atcha.

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  12. I am too moved & astounded at the forgiveness of the Amish community to offer a new comment. Everything has already been said by your readers. I'm just going to sit quietly here for a few minutes & let it seep in.

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    1. It's a bit overwhelming to think about that kind of forgiveness.

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  13. Brilliant post, Susan. Thanks. That's given me a great lift.

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    1. Thanks, Keith. I'm glad it gave you a lift. :)

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  14. Forgiveness is easy to do if there is nothing to forgive, friend Sue ... if somebody killed your husband/child/grandchild and you would have to identify the mangled body parts ... would you forgive and embrace the killer? I would embrace alright but only in order to get close enough in order to kill the killer. Always, cat.

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    1. The more horrible the grievance, the harder it is to forgive. No doubt about that. I honestly don't know how I would respond to the horrible scenarios you offered. Unimaginable grief and a desire for revenge would surely be my first reactions, but I like to think I could eventually find the strength to forgive. Maybe it's delusional to think I could ever have the capacity for that kind of forgiveness, but I know we're all capable of it.

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  15. You've shared some very remarkable stories of true forgiveness. Retaining hate and resentment only destroys the hater. I know from experience. I harbored a very intense hatred for my father, because of all the abuse I endured. It wasn't until the very end of his life that I began to forgive him. After he died, all of my hate was lifted like a weight. And I felt at peace. I understand that he had many hidden demons.

    Yet,I still feel that some travesties are completely unforgivable....
    I agree with the previous comment - - "forgiveness is easy if you have nothing to forgive"

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    1. Understanding that my father had a host of demons allowed me to forgive him, too, but it wasn't easy. I know exactly what you mean about the peace. During the daytime, anyway. I still have nightmares about him.

      I hope to never be tested by any of those "unforgivable" travesties, because I don't know if I'd pass the test.

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  16. If we lack the capacity to forgive the poison will eat away at us inside our hearts. In the same way that charity blesses he who gives more than he who receives, forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven.
    This was a wonderful post and very worthwhile - something quite rare in the Blogosphere.
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s voluble Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. You're right. Both giving and forgiving benefit the giver and forgiver much more than they do the one who receives the charity or forgiveness.

      Thank you.

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  17. A well written piece that I enjoyed reading. I've always been the forgiving type, as why suffer yourself for others faults!

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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    1. I also am the forgiving type ... big time ... but you can only do so much forgiving ... at some point you feel like a fool for forgiving while the culprit is happily living on ... and does it again and again and again ... U understand that anything about justice, friend? No? ... so what about self defence, hmmm? ... Anyway ... Love, cat.

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    2. Thanks, Andrew. Good way to look at it.

      Cat, when someone commits the same offences against you over and over again, it becomes more than a simple matter of forgiveness. (If forgiveness is ever simple.) It becomes a toxic situation, and in those cases, the only thing that can provide relief is to distance yourself from that person.

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  18. What a brilliant post, thank you.

    I agree ... "I must believe that love can... and will... overcome evil. And it begins with each one of us."

    All the best Jan

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  19. I usually find forgiveness pretty easy. I even forgave my ex-husband, although he wouldn't think he needs forgiveness. I still mention what a jerk he is sometimes, but I don't feel any need for revenge against him. I'm shocked by some of the grudges people carry around. I know someone (who will remain nameless) whose husband died. When I saw his obituary, it said he was survived by his wife and three children. It did not mention his daughter from his first marriage. I learned that when she was a young child, she said that her dad and stepmother were mean to her because she wanted to live with her mother. The dad and the stepmother never forgave her. She attended her father's funeral and was greeted, but that was it. It's not something that I understand. I have family members who don't forgive me for things that happened when I was very young--things that weren't my fault but are blamed on me. It's painful, but I don't sit around and dwell on it.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Being able to forgive is a real gift. For most things, I can forgive easily, but there have been some things that took some work. In the end, carrying a grudge is too much weight for anyone to bear. I don't understand people who bear grudges for years and years. My father was estranged from his stepfather for almost forty years. Life is far too short for that sort of thing. By the time they reconciled, my grandfather only had a few months left to live. So many wasted years...

      You're smart not to dwell on it. That'd give the meanies too much power.

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. I must start again...without the typos!

    I love being amazed at the wonderful things humans are capable of.

    We are in a bad place. It seems like no one listens to each other and are more interested in passing judgment and holding grudges than anything else.

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    1. You're right. It does seem like we're overrun with people passing judgement and holding grudges. Since I can't do anything to change them, I'll have to concentrate on tolerating them and improving me.

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  22. I was in tears by the end of post today.
    Wonderful !
    When my toxic x walked out on me one morning I was driving the children to school. He left a message on the answer machine. There is much more, he was an abuser but I do not forgive him. But unlike Voldemort I say his name and he holds no power over me. He expects us to bow and scrape and do anything he wants us to do. I do not forgive him but I also do not dwell on him. He uses money to buy things and people. In fact he is a twin of Trump.
    I can not change him or show him what he did to us. That is the life he chose.
    I can only take care of myself and the children. My life is not centered on hate but forgiveness is not on my radar with him.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Sorry... I really MUST stop making you cry...

      Understandable. Some hurts are so deep, they leave shadows of pain that never completely go away. Perhaps for you, it is enough that you give him no power over your life and are at peace without him. That may be a better characterization of what I achieved with my father. Once I realize he could no longer hurt me and had no power over me, I found peace, which I may have mistaken for forgiveness.

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    2. My ex-husband is like Trump, too! It's the narcissism/psychopath thing.

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  23. Wow.

    Not sure I'd be able to forgive someone for killing my loved one, frankly. (I'd find it much easier to forgive a family member/parent who suffered in their own way as well.)

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    1. Yeah, I agree that it'd be easier to forgive the family members of a killer than it would be to forgive the killer himself. We'd have to dig down reeeeeally deep to find that kind of compassion within us.

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  24. What a great, inspiring post!

    I remember the murders in the Amish community, too, and was amazed at the compassion and forgiveness they showed. Not sure I would be able to do the same - and hoping I will never encounter the situation!

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    1. Thanks.

      I'm not sure I could, either, and I also hope never to be tested to that extent.

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  25. I've seen big forgiving before. I've been part of it myself, as well, though thankfully nothing on the scale offered here. It's tough, it's not impossible, and it's definitely freeing (even if you don't think at the time you're not forgiving, that you're bound).

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    1. Yes, forgiveness can really be tough at times, but it's worth the effort, because not forgiving is a heavy load to bear.

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  26. Beautiful Susan :-) This world has enough division, only connection can save us xxx
    And in unrelated news, I have finally actually bought your book, instead of just thinking about buying it - it is in the post, should be here by Wednesday, I'm jolly happy about that :-)

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! I'm glad you liked the post, and I'm thrilled you bought my book. I hope you enjoy it!

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  27. Oh Susan ... you could have made this easier to swallow. (*smile*) How I struggle with forgiveness! Ironically, I find it easier to forgive others than I do myself.

    In the last few years, however, my feelings have gone from hatred to simple indifference. No useless energy expended. That's a start

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    1. I think we all struggle with forgiveness. If we didn't, it wouldn't be nearly as heartfelt or meaningful. You aren't alone. I find it much easier to forgive others than myself, too. Why we expect "more" of ourselves than we do of others, I dunno.

      Indifference is definitely a step up from hatred. I can relate.

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  28. Thank you for the post.

    A relative of my brother asked for the Professor of Haematology to "put down" my beautiful, alert, very literate mother, in front of me!!! The doctor refused of course, but I never recovered and neither did my mother. She died a fortnight later and I was hospitalised a year later with heart surgery.

    Even if I ever said "I forgive you" to that relative, she would know that the words would be fake. I agree that the real damage is done to the person who cannot let go, but forgiveness seems impossible.

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    1. Hi, Hels. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's very nice to meet you. :)

      I can imagine what bitterness you must feel over that person's heartless comment. It's a blessing that the doctor's heart was in good working order and her comment was recognized for the inanity that it was.

      If you're still communicating with that person, you're a bigger person than many of us.

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  29. I learned at an early age that holding onto hate was destructive. Forgiveness is easy, saying it, but living it takes more courage than most have. Yet, it's that kind of courage that is needed, especially today.
    Beautiful post, thank you.

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    1. You're right. Saying the words is a lot easier than living them, and the saying ain't all that easy, either. The Amish approach it as intentional behavior. They believe in the necessity of forgiving, and even if the "feeling" isn't there from the start, they say the words and then model their actions to support it.

      Thanks, kiddo.

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  30. This is such a controversial subject. People do say things knowingly and yet expect to get forgiven when called out on it.

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    1. I think it's a tough subject, but I don't know if it's controversial. I think most of us would agree to the ideals regarding the benefits of forgiveness. On the other hand, I admit some self-centered people seem to feel entitled to forgiveness, regardless of how outrageous their behavior may be. I'd lump them into the category of people who are afflicted with affluenza.

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  31. I know exactly what you mean. A close member of my own family, my own flesh and blood hurt us and others so badly that it's almost impossible to think of him and not hate everything about him.

    But I know it's something that I have to work on, because I can feel the bitterness poisoning my thoughts and I don't want that in my life.

    So it's something I'm praying for, because it's not something I'm capable of on my own.

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    1. You're right. Sometimes forgiveness requires a lot more strength than we can muster on our own. I wish you all the best in finding it. You've got this!

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  32. I love this, especially the story about the Amish embracing those parents. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It goes against our very human nature, which makes our blood boil and tells us we just need to hurt them back.

    I'm not saying I'm that big of a person, mind you, but I acknowledge that the peace that comes from true forgiveness far outweighs lingering hatred that will just eventually leave you bitter and angry at the world.

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    1. Yeah, I never thought about it, but you're right. Maybe forgiveness IS contrary to our nature, which is why it's so darned tough to do sometimes.

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  33. Susan this was so beautifully written... I strongly believe that the only way we can grow is to forgive... Not all of us are going to have to forgive such heinous acts but if we come up against them, we need to find a way to forgive as you say, so we can be free.

    My ex stepmother was abusive both physically and emotionally... I lived 9 years of my childhood in fear, wondering when the next shoe would drop... out of no where... One day when I was 15, I came to a realization that unless I forgave her, I would always be bound to her... I forgave her and when I had my own children, I did not abuse them... Who knows if I had held onto that anger if I would have...

    Also, when my ex husband raped me, I lived in fear for almost a year... when I finally went to court, he had no remorse for what he had done and he lied about me... I called him and I told him, I forgive you... I need to forgive you for me and for Valentina... one day when I sit her down to tell her... I want her to forgive him too...

    You really got to the heart of forgiveness... I hope that one day, we can all learn that art of forgiveness... I work on it daily, it's not easy xox

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    1. Thanks, Launna. You're right. We all need to learn the art of forgiveness, but it sounds like you've already made great strides. It's unusual for a teenager to have the kind of maturity needed to make the decision to forgive. You're a special lady.

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