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”

Mother of Gina DeJesus Says She Forgives Kidnapper

amanda-berry-and-gina-dejesusNew York Daily News – The mother of Gina DeJesus says she has forgiven??Ariel Castro, the??man accused of imprisoning??DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight as sex slaves for more than a decade.

Asked by ABC’s 20/20 what she would offer the accused kidnapper, DeJesus’ mother, Nancy Ruiz, said, “”I would hug him and I would say, ‘God bless you.’ I would say, ‘God bless you,’?? and I’d hug him. I did not hate him. I forgave him years ago. I said it: I?? forgive whoever done it, just let her go.”

Ruiz and Castro have known each other for years, having grown up in the same?? neighborhood.??They would even run into each other occasionally??with??Castro??always offering??support to Ruiz??and??asking her how she was holding up without DeJesus ??? all the while allegedly keeping her?? locked away as a sex slave.

But these disconcerting encounters and years with her daughter stolen away??are not enough, Ruiz said, for her to hate another person.

“When you start to hate a person, that eats you up,” she said. “I don’t have?? time for that. I have to be, you know, I want to be happy, like I am now.”

Read the full story: “Mother of Gina DeJesus says she forgives Ariel Castro.”

Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. Only the brave will be able to forgive. Then, how about seeking forgiveness? When do you seek forgiveness? Is seeking forgiveness a good way to attempt reconciliation? Is it appropriate to seek forgiveness, even when you’re not sure what you did wrong, so that reconciliation might become possible between the two?

Seeking forgiveness and forgiving are both part of the pathway to reconciliation. ??You ask an intriguing question: What if the other is offended by me and I truly think I have done nothing wrong? ??We recommend saying something like this: “I am sorry that I hurt you when I did X. ??Would you please consider forgiving me for this?” ??As you can see, you are not admitting guilt, but instead you are expressing a truth that you feel badly that he or she was hurt by your actions. ??This may start the process of reconciliation.

Correction Chief’s Widow Offers Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Fox 21 News, Colorado Springs, CO -??The wife of Colorado’s slain corrections director says he would want justice to be served in his case but would also want forgiveness.

Tom Clements,??director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was??gunned down as he answered his front door in Monument, north of Colorado Springs, in late March. Days later,??Lisa Clements spoke??at??a memorial service??for her husband.

Joined by her two daughters, she told mourners that her husband lived his life believing in redemption. “Our family prays for the family of the man who took Tom’s life.??And as for the girls??and me, we’ll pray for forgiveness in our own hearts and for peace.”

Watch the TV news broadcast: “Correction chief’s widow says husband would want forgiveness.”

On Evil…..Its Perpetuation….and Its Destruction

good_vs_evilWhat is evil? Is it a thing, something in existence? Is it the opposite of good?

Good appears to be embodied in being, in people for example. Goodness has a quality of a thing, something that exists in being. If evil is the opposite of good, then it too exists as a thing in being.

If evil exists as a thing, then God does not exist. Why? Because if God exists and is good, then evil cannot be created and exist, otherwise God is not good. In other words, if God creates evil then we are mistaken that the creator is all good and therefore we are mistaken about the creator-as-creator.

We have four possibilities: 1) God exists and has created evil (a contradiction and so we can dismiss this one); 2) God exists and has not created evil (although it can exist, just not as a created thing); 3) God does not exist (as monotheism describes God) and evil exists as a thing (as goodness exists as a thing). In this case we have a form of ancient Manichaeism which suggested a struggle between good (as a spiritual thing, but not with the attributes of the monotheistic God) and evil (as a material thing). Augustine of Hippo eventually came to dismiss this premise because this way of living condoned evil (after all, if it exists alongside good, and defines the physical world, it cannot be all that bad); or 4) neither exists.

So, the two premises with the fewest contrary or contradictory aspects are #2 and 4: God exists and evil is not a thing (a creation of a good creator), or God does not exist (with the attributes as outlines by monotheistic theology) and evil does not exist other than perhaps as an illusion.

We will develop point #2 and allow atheists/materialists to voice their view in #4.

If evil is not a thing, then what is it? Augustine of Hippo solved this problem (of whether or not evil exists) by arguing that evil exists as the absence of good. It is not an opposite thing to good. Instead it is the absence of that which is good. (We are not saying that people are evil. Instead, we are interested in evil as evil and not as embodied or not in persons.)

If evil exists, then, how does it continue to exist? How is it perpetuated? I think evil continues to exist as viruses continue to exist: Each has to seek a host on which to prey to continue in existence. In other words, evil must somehow (the mechanism of this need not concern us here) have an effect upon good so that it ceases to be good or at least fully good. It invades good, in a certain sense. (As a virus cannot be 100% effective in destroying all hosts lest it become extinguished, evil cannot be 100% effective lest it has no more hosts).

To continue to exist, a virus then needs to continually inhabit other hosts. Evil, then, must go from the goodness in one being to another being. Evil has to spread to continue in existence.

I think that resentment is a primary mechanism for evil to continually find new hosts in which to exist. Why? Because resentment is the seed of rage and revenge. If we can destroy the mechanism by which evil seeks new hosts, then evil is destroyed (because it no longer can jump from host to host, as a virus does.)

Forgiveness is the means by which resentment no longer exists.fear_no_evil_original Forgiveness, therefore, destroys the pathway of evil from one person to another. Forgiveness stops the spread of the disease of evil as sound hygiene stops the spread of viruses.

Forgiveness not only provides the mechanism by which evil no longer can spread from host to host but also forgiveness stops the effects of evil within any one host (person). Forgiveness eradicates the resentment (with its concomitant anger, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and hopelessness) destroying the effects of evil.

Forgiveness, then, has a vital role to play in destroying both evil itself and the effects of evil.

Long live forgiveness. Is forgiveness a thing?  We will ponder this one another time. Well, ok, here is the answer: Good exists as a thing. Forgiveness is part of the good. Therefore, forgiveness exists as a thing. If forgiveness exists as a thing, then what is it? From the viewpoint of monotheistic theology, it is an attribute of God and is therefore a thing. Atheists, you may come in with a different viewpoint, which we will respectfully consider.