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).
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.
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.
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!”
“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.
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 others 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.
“When people withdraw love from us, we might development resentment. After all, we do not deserve unfair treatment and we 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).”
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.