Our 15-year-old son was killed when the car he was riding in was broadsided by a vehicle that ran a stop sign at 55 mph. Our son’s best friend and the mother of our son’s girlfriend were also killed in the crash. The driver of the other vehicle, a young man on his way home from a wedding reception, and his girlfriend who was riding with him, were not injured.

My immediate reaction to the senseless tragedy was to get revenge. I wanted to kill the driver who so carelessly killed our son. I thought about buying a gun to carry out my “make him pay” mentality, especially after a jury somehow found him not guilty of all charges related to the crash.

Although I never purchased a gun, I was tormented for years with the hatred I felt for the man who ended my son’s life so prematurely and my desire for revenge. Those negative emotions turned me into a bitter, resentful and unhappy person. They were, in effect, controlling my life and impacting the failing relationships I had with everyone around me. My life was miserable.

After years of anguish, an astute physician at the VA Hospital helped me discover a weapon much more powerful than a gun–the power of forgiveness. After recognizing the damage my emotional state was causing to my health, he referred me to a counselor who patiently walked me through the steps in Forgiveness is a Choice by Dr. Robert Enright. The path to forgiveness outlined in that book was one of the most difficult journeys I have ever undertaken because it focused first on me and not on the one who initially caused my grief.

By choosing to forgive the offender, I gave up the bitterness and resentment I felt for him that was so negatively impacting only my own life, not his. By forgiving him, I freed myself.