I heard recently that a top peace negotiator was discouraged by the events in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. He said that the divide between the two is “unsolvable.”
Having just spent two weeks in Israel, I am convinced that there is a solution to the entrenched political and spiritual warfare in the broken Middle East. It is not an immediate but instead a long-range solution requiring patience and much perseverance. It is this: education on family, school, and community levels regarding what forgiveness is, what it is not, how to practice it, and how to bring it alongside justice. Those so schooled, perhaps in the next several generations, very well may find the way to community peace. “Justice first” may never come.
We sometimes think that those who hurt us have far more control over us than they actually do. We often measure our happiness or unhappiness by what has happened in the past.
My challenges to you today are these: Your response of forgiveness now to the one who hurt you can set you free from a past influence that has been toxic. Try to measure your happiness by what you will do next (not by what is past). Your next move can be this—to love regardless of what others do to you.
Daily Mail.com, London, UK – A 74-year-old woman in Bournemouth, England (about 2-hours southeast of London) has appealed to a municipal judge to help the driver who ran down her husband avoid a prison sentence.
Patricia Machin said she had no “ill thoughts or grudges” against Brian Williamson, the driver of the car that killed her 77-year-old husband Gerrard as he was crossing the road to buy his morning paper. Mrs Machin even hugged the sobbing defendant as he left court after receiving a suspended sentence.
“It isn’t that I have forgiven Brian, it was that I never blamed him in the first place,” Mrs. Machin said. “It was a mistake. He has suffered enough already and will have to live with what he did. I didn’t want to see him going to prison; he is someone’s son after all.”
In a letter to the sentencing judge, Mrs. Machin wrote:
“I have never for a single second had any sort of angry or vengeful thoughts towards this young man. If asked, he would confirm to you that just after the accident and his arrest, I comforted him in his distress. Even though at the time we stood beside a pool of Gerrard’s blood, and I was panicking, because having gone out to look for Gerrard, I was faced with the horror of the situation, I felt only pity for the driver.”
In a separate letter she sent Williamson just before the sentencing hearing she wrote:
“Today is a very important day and I will be in court to support you. On the day of the accident, however bad it was for me, I realise it was 1,000 times worse for you. Will you make me a promise, that you will get on with your young life, knowing that you will always be supported by my prayers?”
As the late Lewis Smedes said, forgiveness is for imperfect people. None of us starts out as an expert forgiver. With practice, we improve in our understanding and depth of offering forgiveness. So, I as an imperfect person encourage you to take small steps to becoming a strong forgiver.
Change is difficult for many people and so you are not alone in that. Your current status of victim seems to give you a sense of security, even if it is mixed with pain. Please think about this contrast: Would you rather keep the security, with its pain, or experience temporary insecurity so that the pain can reduce substantially? Do you think that an identity of survivor or even thriver might be healthier for you in the long-run? If so, are you willing to risk short-term insecurity to achieve this new and possibly healthier identity?
Many people say that one of the most difficult aspects of the process of forgiveness is simply making the decision to go ahead and try it. Deciding to walk through the forgiveness door is hard because it deals with change, with commitment and both of these can be unsettling. We are starting a new path, a new way of approaching the world. Starting a new job or a new exercise program, or deciding to move to a new city can all be disruptive, but can lead to growth as a person. So, if you are feeling a little trepidation about your decision to forgive, know that you are not alone. And knowing that, I urge you to go ahead anyway, despite the initial discomfort.
CNN.com U.S. News, New York City, NY – When a federal jury sentenced Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death last month, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a statement expressing “hope [that] this verdict provides a small amount of closure” to everyone affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed four people and wounded hundreds more.
Like Mayor Walsh, most everyone hopes the victims of the bombing — including the families of the four people murdered by the Tsarnaev brothers — can find some relief from their anguish. Will this death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev help them?
Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed in the bombing, don’t think so. They recently wrote an open letter in the Boston Globe urging the Justice Department to take the death penalty “off the table.”
“The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” wrote the Richards, who suffered severe injuries from the bombing; their 7-year-old daughter lost her left leg.
For many victims, feelings of pain and loss may never go away, regardless of how Tsarnaev is punished. But psychological research has found that one way to achieve greater peace of mind is through forgiveness.
Researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, WI, stress that forgiving does not mean absolving an offender of guilt; instead, it means deliberately letting go of feelings of anger and vengeance toward the offender — a way to stop ruminating on the offense and free yourself of the power it has over you.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m going to take my life back because I’m getting swallowed up by hatred,” according to Loren Toussaint, an associate professor of psychology at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), who studies forgiveness. “It’s an act of transformative empowerment … that allows someone to move forward.”
Read the full story including research results from crime victims on the effects of punishment vs forgiveness: “Does Death Penalty Bring Closure?“