So, Do We Forgive Evil or Persons Who Perpetrate Evil?

Consider this quotation from the late great Dr. Lewis Smedes:

Smedes Quote

I am sure that Dr. Smedes was being poetic to drive home a point about how we are to respond to evil. He was not being literal.

If this is the case, then we need to ask this: Why do we forgive persons and not evil per se? The answer lies in what the essence of forgiveness is. It is a moral virtue and all moral virtues flow out from us to others—to other people—for their good. We are just or fair so that people can live a good life of order rather than chaos. We are patient so that people can correct imperfections, as only one example of how patience is used for good.

When we forgive, it is directly for the other, for the one who was unjust. It gives him or her a chance to correct the evil, to reach for the higher aspects of what it means to be human. Evil is not an entity. It is not a thing. We cannot interact with it. We surely experience its effects, but there is no interaction with it. Instead, there is interaction with people who house the evil, who give it a chance to exist as a deprivation of the good.

Thank you, Dr. Smedes, for your poetic image. It has helped us deepen our understanding of forgiveness.


Grieving Partner Offers Forgiveness at Man’s Sentencing

The New Zealand Herald, Auckland, New Zealand – Ricki Cobb was enjoying a ride through the countryside??on his motorcycle when a??heavily-loaded trailer towed by Donald Wills’ car hit??a guardrail and jack-knifed into the path of??the motorcycle, colliding with it and killing its rider instantly. At Wills’??sentencing for careless driving,??the dead??man’s partner Hera Edwards told the court??not only of the sorrow??Cobb’s death had brought to her in the 18-months since the fatal crash,??but also of her willingness to forgive Wills.

Edwards said nothing could ever be done to replace??Cobb or to make up for his absence in her life or the lives of their three girls–aged 9, 6 and 4–nor would he ever be forgotten.

“This is not about forgetting, we will never forget, but it is about forgiving,” Edwards said. “I offer my forgiveness and the forgiveness of my family.”

The sentencing came in the wake of a Restorative Justice conference and an offer by Wills that was described by Judge Bill Hastings as being a “generous offer” driven by genuine remorse.

Judge Hastings said??that while??Edwards??and Wills “came from differentForgive-It Doesnt Erase their crime... worlds,??they are not so different??they can’t recognize the good in each other and I can see you are both good people.”

Judge Hastings added, “Many victim impact statements read to courts are fuelled by anger which prohibits healing, but Ms. Edwards, your statement rises above, from a basis of sorrow which embraces forgiveness. Both of you have shown a generosity of spirit to leave this courtroom and live your lives well.”

Read the full story: “Grieving partner offers forgiveness at man’s sentencing.”

Your Unfolding Love Story Continues

Memorial DayMemorial Day: a chance to reflect on those who gave of themselves for causes larger than their own survival. We thank you for leaving a legacy of love. Now it is our turn. Shall we strive to leave our own legacy of love on this earth?

The time is shorter than we think. If we could ask each of those whose lives we honor on this Memorial Day, do you think they would say that their span of life was exactly as they had expected? In all likelihood, no.

We can start making a difference even today in adding to our Unfolding Love Story. Whom will you serve today? To whom will you extend love, perhaps in an unexpected way so that you leave that person with a smiling heart?

Adding to your Unfolding Love Story awaits. Please do not delay.


Nigerian Bloodbath May End as Two Sides Pledge Forgiveness

Fulani cattle herder

Premium Times, Abuja, Nigeria – After years of devastating communal bloodbath with heavy casualties on both sides, the Fulanis (one of Nigeria’s three major ethnic groups) and Beroms??(one of Nigeria’s major aborigine ethnic groups)??say they have forgiven each other and resolved to co-exist peacefully.

The guerilla-fashioned violence had been characterised by deadly midnight attacks, killing of farmers and herdsmen on the fields, destruction of farmlands, as well as the killing and rustling of cows. Thousands were reportedly killed in the bloodbath that persisted.

The peace talks were uniquely initiated by the warring communities themselves. Haruna Boro, who led the Fulani team, declared that his community had forgiven all and was prepared for peace.

???We have resolved to forgive and forge ahead,??? he said. ???We want the Beroms to demonstrate equal forgiving spirit??because we have resolved never to attack anyone any longer.??????

For their part, the Beroms said they have also forgiven. ???Our parents taught us to love everyone. In fact, my own father built a house for his Fulani neighbour,” said Moday Dalyop, a Berom elder. “But we teach our children a different thing and that is why they take up arms against each other.”

Read the full story: “Peace may return to Plateau as Fulani, Berom meet; pledge forgiveness”

You Are a Person: You Are Not Your Pain

When someone asks about you, do you state your career or perhaps where you are in school?  You are more than your career.

Do you state your age or where you live? You are more than these.

If someone asks you how you are doing and you are in emotional pain, do you make the mistake of defining yourself by that pain?

You are more than your career or your age or where you live or the amount of pain you are in.

You-UniqueWho are you? Yes, all of the above characteristics are part of who you are, but who are you really?

You are a person who is special, unique, and irreplaceable. There is no one just like you on the planet. You have inherent (built-in) worth because you are a person.

You have the capacity to love and to overcome emotional pain through love and forgiveness.

You are much more than your pain….and so is the one who has caused you the pain.


Isn’t self forgiveness just a trick we play on ourselves to reduce guilt so we can keep doing silly things? Forgiveness is for others, isn’t it?

As there is false forgiveness when we are forgiving other people, there is false forgiveness when we forgive the self. ??False forgiveness toward others is insincere and meant to manipulate rather than to uplift in goodness. ??For example, a false form of forgiveness might be to continually remind someone that he or she has been forgiven as a way to dominate. ??False self-forgiveness also is a form of manipulation in which we let ourselves off the hook so that we can continue with the unfair behavior.

Genuine self-forgiveness is the expression of the moral virtue of mercy toward the self. ??We express moral virtues all the time toward the self: we are fair to ourselves (justice), we care for our physical needs (love), and we sometimes have to wait under certain circumstances (patience).

We have to be careful when we self-forgive also to bring justice into the situation. ??If we have mercy on ourselves because of an injustice that we ourselves created, then we must correct the injustice. ??This might include going to others and apologizing and making the situation right.

Based on the above analysis, genuine self-forgiveness is hard and sincere work, not a trick we play on ourselves.

Forgiveness Eases the Heartbreak, Salt Lake City, UT – In February 2010, the entire Toone family ??? Nathan, Brenda and their four children ??? became ill from what they initially thought was food poisoning. When 4-year-old Rebecca took a turn for the worst, she was rushed to the hospital where she later died. Three days later, 15-month-old Rachel passed away, too.

Investigators later blamed the girls’ deaths on fumes from rat poison that a technician placed too close to the Toone’s home. In the midst of their grief, the Toone family did something no one expected. They immediately expressed forgiveness. And according to Nathan, expressing forgiveness so soon after the deaths felt like the right thing to do.

“It didn’t feel at the time like a hard thing to do,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re asked to be put through it. We knew that the technician who was responsible for the deaths of our girls didn’t do it intentionally. Bad things happen. I think that in general you need to look for the best in people.”

Brenda agreed. “I felt that desire to forgive just hours after Rebecca passed away,”??she said. “I think part of it has to do with wanting be the kind of person that my daughters can still be proud of.”

Read the full story: “Family of girls killed by pesticide talk about forgiveness, lessons learned.”

Your Forgiveness Landscape

LandscapeFirst, what is a “forgiveness landscape?” This is an expression first used in my book, The Forgiving Life, to refer to all of the people who ever have been seriously unjust to you. When people first construct their forgiveness landscape, they often are surprised at: a) how many people are on the list and b) the depth of the anger left over, even from decades ago.

When we are treated deeply unfairly by others, the anger is slow to leave. If we push that anger aside, simply thinking we have “moved on” or “forgotten all about it,” sometimes this is not the case. The anger can be in hiding, deep within the heart, and the only way to get rid of it is surgery of the heart—forgiveness.

Would you like to examine your own forgiveness landscape to see how many people in your life are still in need of your forgiveness? You might want to write down your answers to the following questions.

First set of questions: Think back to your childhood. Is there anyone who was very unfair to you and if so, what is your anger level now on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 signifying no anger left over and a 5 signifying lots of anger when you reflect on this person and the actions toward you.

More specifically from your childhood, are there any incidents from your father that still make you angry? from your mother? a sibling?

What about from peers or teachers, is your anger still high when you recall the incidents?

Second set of questions: Let us now focus on your adolescence. Follow the pattern from the first set of questions. Then let us add any coaches, employers or fellow employees, and romantic partners to the list. Are there people who still make you angry in the 4 or 5 range of our scale?

Third set of questions: Who in your adult life has made you significantly angry, in the 4 to 5 range of anger? We can add partner, any children, relatives, friends, and neighbors to the list.

Now please rank order all of the people from those who least offendedtoday-i-will-forgive you to those who most offended you. Now look at that list to see your forgiveness landscape. There is your work, right there in the list. I recommend starting with people lower on the list. Forgive them first because they in all likelihood are the easiest to forgive because the anger is less. As you work up the list, you will gain in your expertise to forgive, which is good preparation for forgiving those on the top of the list—those who are the most challenging for you.

You can find more on this way of forgiving in the book, The Forgiving Life, which walks you systematically through this exercise. Enjoy the challenge. Enjoy the journey of forgiveness, which can set you free in so many ways.


Shooter, Victim Work Together to Teach Prisoners About Forgiveness

PrisonRTV6-ABC, Indianapolis, IN – Twenty years ago, Misty Wallace was using a payphone when Keith Blackburn walked up and shot her in the face, point-blank. Wallace was a high school senior with a full-ride college scholarship. Blackburn was a drop-out looking to steal a car, and he didn’t want any witnesses.

Blackburn spent nine years in prison while Wallace miraculously recovered and went on with her life, carrying anger and yearning for one answer: Why? Two years after making contact with Blackburn to try to get an answer to that question, Wallace??determined that forgiveness was a choice she had to make for her own health.

According to Blackburn, “Twenty years ago I did what she didn’t deserve. Two years ago she gave me what I know I didn’t deserve — I didn’t deserve to be forgiven on this level.”

Wallace and Blackburn now tell their story together as part of the Bridges to Life program, speaking to prisoners about forgiveness and about the lifetime impact of their crimes. They call themselves friends.

“She’s choosing not only to forgive me, but to walk alongside of me and tell this story to others that are struggling with pain and bitterness and anger,” Blackburn said. The two hope to eventually tell their story at every correctional facility in Indiana.

Watch the news report and read the full story: “Shooter, victim work together to teach prisoners about forgiveness, life-long impact of crime”