Palestinian Teen Shows the Power of Forgiveness

The Washington Post, Washington, DC. – As Israelis and Palestinians once again trade rocket attacks in a new round of violence, a 10-year-old story is back in the news because of the ability of one of those involved to grasp the awesome power of forgiveness and reconciliation.Gaza Strip II

On Feb. 18, 2004, a week after his 15th birthday, Yousef Bashir was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier in the front yard of Bashir’s home. The bullet splintered into three fragments, severing nerves near the teenager’s spine.

Today, after months of rehabilitation in an Israeli hospital where he learned to walk again, Bashir describes the episode as “life-changing,” which makes sense, and “a blessing,” which to many is astonishing.

“I feel very thankful to this horrible experience because it spared me from a lot of hatred I would be growing up with toward the Israelis,” he says. “I was shot by one Israeli but saved by many Israeli people.”

Indeed, over the years, Bashir has imagined finding the soldier who shot him that afternoon.

Anger Is at the Heart of War

In today’s news, we read that Israel and Hamas are on the brink of all-out-war. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, today one group is verbally Forgiveness is Peacethreatening violence because a parade commission banned them from a particular parade route. Anger. Toxic anger. It is at the heart of war. Yes, there are land disputes and ethnic disputes adding to the war and threat of violence, but disputes can be handled without violence…..if the hearts are without toxic anger. Our science shows this: forgiveness education reduces toxic anger. We need forgiveness education…….so that future generations can be protected from angry hearts in those who hold power. Maybe they will use their power more wisely when schooled in forgiveness.


My mother has been diagnosed with a mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder. She is constantly accusing me of stealing her money, which I have not done. I am getting exasperated. Can I actually forgive her? I ask because she probably is not giving full consent of her free will to these thoughts.

You raise an important point about whether or not we can forgive if there was no intention to harm.  I think it is appropriate to forgive in some cases even if there was no intention to harm.  Here is one example: Smith is not paying attention while driving and hits and seriously injures Jones.  Smith explains that he was distracted and did not mean it.  Yet, in this circumstance, given the dire consequences that can occur when someone is distracted while driving, this action (driving while distracted) is an injustice.  Therefore, Jones can go ahead with forgiveness even though there was no intent to harm.

In your mother’s case, she may not realize the depth of hurt she is causing you because of the Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms, but even so, a mother should not be treating her daughter with disrespect and in a consistently unjust way by stealing money repeatedly.  This is an injustice and so you can forgive your mother.  As a final point, the Borderline diagnosis suggests that your mother does have awareness at least to a degree of her actions (“borderline” means that she sometimes is rational and sometimes not) and so she may be aware at least at times of the impact of her actions on you.  If this is the case, then she may (at times) be intentional in her stealing behavior.  You should go ahead and forgive if you are ready.

What Is Self-Forgiveness?

When you self-forgive you are struggling to loveStop Hating yourself when you are not feeling lovable because of your actions.  You are offering to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense that you have inherent worth, despite your actions, that you are more than your actions, that you can and should honor yourself as a person even if you are imperfect, and that you did wrong and need to correct that wrong done to other people.  In self-forgiveness you never (as far as I have ever seen) offend yourself alone.  You also offend others and so part of self-forgiveness is to deliberately engage in seeking forgiveness from those others and righting the wrongs (as best you can under the circumstances) that you did toward others. Thus, we have two differences between forgiving others and forgiving the self.  In the latter, you seek forgiveness from those hurt by your actions and you strive for justice toward them.