I was going through some old things and found this article I wrote about a year ago on the topic of Forgiveness. When i read it over, I realized that it still holds true, even though the news event that inspired it isn’t recent. Here it is, please let me know what you think:
This morning I was watching the Today Show while I was getting ready for work. There was a segment about the Amish people who just went through a horrifying ordeal with a gunman taking their children hostage and killing them before turning the gun on himself. All in a one-room schoolhouse!
The thing that really struck me and made me think I should write about it was the fact that the Amish people who lost daughters are all preaching forgiveness. The interviewers seemed incredulous about the possibility of forgiving such a terrible act and the loss of their children, but I think I understand what they mean.
Forgiveness is not totally an unselfish act. Forgiveness is a very personal thing we do for ourselves, not for the person we forgive. Absolutely not! In fact, they don’t even have to know they have been forgiven for it to make a difference in our lives.
The thing that others find hard to understand is that when you forgive, you don’t negate the pain you feel, nor do you fail to grieve. You simply decide not to let the anger poison you further.
I’ve had some things happen in my life that were extremely hard to forgive. And until I managed to understand and forgive, it was me who suffered, not them. I was the one losing sleep at night from playing the injustices over in my head. I was the one with the upset stomach from the anger. It was me who got the tension headaches, not the offender. In fact, that person probably slept just fine and had no other ailments as a result of their offenses.
It wasn’t until I figured out that to forgive the hurt inflicted doesn’t mean that I have to feel that it was ok for them to do it, or that I would ever give them the chance to hurt me the same way again. It’s just that as long as I stayed angry, I continued to let them have control over me and hurt me.
It was the hardest lesson I think I’ve ever had to learn, but the most worthwhile. Once I learned to forgive, (and it takes practice and if the offense is big enough, it takes a long time) I learned to deal with my pain and then move on. As long as I had stayed angry, I could not release the pain and move on.
No one says that forgiveness happens immediately, or that it’s easy to do. But if you approach even the most difficult and painful of assaults with an attitude of wanting to forgive (not forget…not to stuff the pain and deny it), you can begin to heal the wounds.
I admire the Amish people who, in the aftermath of such horrific tragedy in their lives, understand the value of learning to forgive. They don’t condone the behavior, they still hurt and grieve the loss, they just choose not to let anger prevent them from beginning to heal.
My deepest sympathies go out to them and to anyone who is suffering a huge loss. And I wish you the gift of forgiveness.