On the Attempted Destruction of Beauty

I stand today before the eighth wonder of the Western world: Michelangelo’s Pieta at the Basilica of San Pietro in Rome. It is a marvel of the human spirit, how one man could have such vision and talent to bring forth such beauty from rock. Michelangelo used to say that he was only freeing each statue from its prison within the marble. It just had to come out.

As I stand before this magnificent work of art, I am reminded that in 1972 Laszlo Toth took a hammer to this masterpiece and tried to destroy it, knocking off the Virgin’s arm, chipping her eye and nose.

Mr. Toth was intent on destroying beauty.

I wonder, as I look at this breathtaking work, if too many injustices are perpetrated in the name of destroying beauty. Some partners denigrate the other…..just because. Some attack others…..just because. Some deface homes and walls and works of art……just because.

You are a person. Therefore, you are a work of art. You are a person of beauty. Some may wish to deface you—to hurt your heart—just because.

The master artists worked diligently to restore the Virgin’s features according to the artist’s original expectations (using detailed photos to accomplish the task).pieta

You, too, should consider using the artistic tools of forgiveness when others try to hurt you, to deface you, or even to destroy you.

Forgiving those who try to hurt your beauty is even better than the tools used to reconstruct the Pieta. You see, forgiveness as a tool does not just restore you to your previous state. Forgiving others has a way of making you even more beautiful than you were before.

Robert

Is it possible for someone to actually improve in forgiveness? If so what do you suggest as some keys for me to do that?

Forgiveness is not a superficial action (such as saying, “It’s ok” when someone is unfair to you). Instead, it is a moral virtue, as is justice and kindness and love. Aristotle told us over 3,500 years ago that one challenge in life is to become more perfected in the virtues. In other words, we do grow more proficient in our understanding and expression of the virtues, but only if we practice them. It is a struggle to grow in any virtue, including forgiveness. So, first be aware that you can grow in this virtue. Then be willing to practice it, with the goal of maturing in love, which is what forgiveness is (loving those who are unkind to us). You need a strong will to keep persevering in the struggle to grow in forgiveness. In sum, you need: understanding of what forgiveness is, practice, a strong will, and keeping your eye fixed on the goal of improving in love a little more each day.

A Sign of True Forgiveness

The Argus Observer, Ontario, OR – Christopher Ragus, the 40-year-old owner of Making Tracks Cyclery in Nyssa, OR, boarded up a window of his store that was shattered by a brick during a break-in the night before. On the plywood boards he painted the words “I forgive you!”

Forgive Sign-Broken Window
Photo courtesy of Larry Meyer, Argus Observer

“I wanted to put a statement out there that this wasn’t going to get to me,” Ragus said of the robbery that resulted in four BMX-style bicycles being stolen.

“Still want justice. But this is what I need to do. Not going to let this speed bump keep us from winning the race,” Ragus said. He added that forgiveness and understanding are a part of his overall values.

“I’m a Christian and I really wanted to make a bold statement to whoever did this that whatever it is they’re going through, to do something like this, can only mean they’re going through more in life than I am,” Ragus said.

Read the full story: “A Sign of Forgiveness After Theft”

On Reversing Pessimism

PessimismWhen we are treated unjustly by others, we slowly can become more apathetic about everything. Consider this quotation from G.K. Chesterton on the matter:

“It matters very little whether a man is discontented in the name of pessimism or progress, if his discontent does in fact paralyse his power of appreciating what he has got.”

Forgiveness can reverse the apathy and the pessimism and increase our appreciation of situations and other people.

Robert

Mother Forgives Man Who Shot Her Twin Sons

WOWT Channel 6, Omaha, NE – An Omaha woman says she forgives the man who killed her 28-year-old son Kevin McIntyre and wounded his twin Branden at a party in early August.

“I forgive the young man that did it, I really do,” said Lisa McIntyre speaking to a large crowd at a recent vigil. “I would just like to ask for no retaliation.”

McIntyre said she isn’t angry, only showing forgiveness. “You said that you have forgiven him, why do you feel that in your heart, that forgiveness? I don’t be tangled up inside, I don’t take this anger and do something else. I have another twin out there, not just that I can set an example.”

Her words inspired Balloonsothers in the crowd. “Let’s quit being the victims and start being the victors,” said one woman. “We are human beings, red, yellow, green, black or white. We are all brothers and sisters, let’s love each other, quit fighting, it ain’t worth it, it ain’t worth it.”

As balloons were released into the air, McIntyre added, “I’m not angry, I am not upset, I just want it to stop. That is it, that is all I can say.”

The man who shot her sons has turned himself in to authorities.

Read the full story: “Mother Of Twins Shot Sunday Forgives Gunman

On Resentment

“When people withdraw love from us, we might development resentment. After all, we do not deserve unfair treatment and Resentment 2we do require love, not from all but at least from some. Resentment occurs when anger not only comes to visit, but sits down in our hearts, takes off its stinky shoes, and makes itself too much at-home in our hearts. After awhile, we do not know how to ask it to leave. While some anger might be good, persistent and intensive anger that is resentment is not healthy. It can distort in the short-run how we think (as we dwell on the negative), what we think (as we have specific condemning thoughts), and how we act (reducing our will to act in a morally good way).”

Excerpt (Chapter 1) from the book, The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, by Dr. Robert Enright, Ph.D.

Robert

Isn’t it possible that if I keep forgiving the person who is insensitive to me, then he eventually realizes that he has nothing to lose in being insensitive? How can I forgive so that he does not take advantage of me like this?

Forgiveness is not an excuse to be weak when it comes to justice. As you forgive and reduce your anger, try to exercise justice from that context. In other words, with reduced anger, ask what is fair. If you do not forgive and then forge ahead with a quest for justice, you might ask for too much because of your anger. In other words, when you forgive you may end up with an even better quest for justice than would have been the case without forgiveness.

Award-Winning Musician Practices Forgiveness–Even for His Father’s Killer

The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA – Over a 100-day period beginning on April 6, 1994, nearly 1 million Rwandan Tutsis lost their lives at the hands of their fellow Rwandans, the Hutus. Prior to the outbreak of that genocide, Jean Paul Samputu, Rwanda Mapa Tutsi and at the time a rising star on the East African music scene, spent six months in jail, along with thousands of other Tutsis who had been arrested at their homes.

When he was released from jail, his father urged him to flee the country. While Jean Paul escaped to neighboring Burundi and Uganda, the elder Samputu stayed behind in his village. In the nightmare of genocidal rage that followed, Jean Paul lost his father, mother, three brothers, and a sister.

Struggling with grief, anger, and desperation, Samputu slid into drinking and drugs, causing his career, his health, and his private life to spiral downward.

In 2003, Samputu found himself on Prayer Mountain, a real place in Uganda. There, he says, God showed him that he needed to forgive. “That’s when I said yes to God. I can forgive,” Samputu recalls. “I got a great peace in my heart.” He also vowed that he would take his message of forgiveness all over the world.

SamputuReturning to his native village, Samputu found and forgave the former neighbor who had killed his father. Despite the irrationality of it all, the two men worked together over the next few years to bring their message of forgiveness to all of Rwanda.

“Forgiveness is for you, not the offender. Forgiveness is the only thing that can stop the cycle of violence, the culture of revenge,” Samputu says. “If we don’t want another genocide, our children must learn this message.”

Samputu also returned to his music and his career took off. He won the Kora Award (the African Grammy) for Most Promising African Male Artist. Three years later, in 2006, he won First Place for World Music in the International Songwriting Competition. And in 2007, he was recognized as an “ambassador of peace” by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace.

Today, Samputu, who sings in six languages, has established himself as one of the most prominent African artists on the world stage. He is an international ambassador for peace, speaking at the UN and at universities throughout Japan, Canada, Mizerothe US, and Germany. His nonprofit group, The Mizero Foundation, focuses on teaching gender equality and the empowerment of women.

He also formed a music and dance group called Mizero Children of Rwanda. These 15 children, all orphaned by the genocide, traveled with him throughout Africa, Canada, and the United States, singing, dancing, and delivering a message of forgiveness.

Read the full story: “Jean Paul Samputu practices forgiveness even for his father’s killer.”

Do You Want to Become a Forgiving Person?

“I hope you are beginning to see that forgiveness is not only something The Forgiving Life-Coveryou do, nor is it just a feeling or a thought inside you. It pervades your very being. Forgiveness, in other words, might become a part of your identity, a part of who you are as a person. Try this thought on for size to see if it fits: I am a forgiving person. Did that hurt or feel strange? Try it again. Of course, to say something like this and then to live your life this way will take plenty of practice. Part of that practice is to get to know the entire process of forgiveness.”

Excerpt (page 79) from the book, The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, by Dr. Robert Enright, Ph.D.

Robert

The one I am having the toughest time forgiving is myself. I have done some stuff that is not so great. I have a hard time letting myself off the hook. Any suggestions?

First, let us realize that when we forgive other people who have hurt us, we are exercising the moral virtue of love. We are loving that person, as best we can, not because of what was done, but in spite of that. Try forgiving others first, even if the hurt you experienced is not strong. I want you to get used to offering love to those who have been unfair.

Once you have done that, then consider practicing loving yourself, not because of what you have done, but in spite of that. This does not “let you off the hook,” as they say. If your actions have offended others and not just yourself, then go to those others and ask for forgiveness; make amends. You might begin to find that you can now forgive yourself by unconditionally loving yourself as you have learned to love others.