Forgiveness...what a charged topic. Thank you for a sensitive presentation. I've seen the power of forgiveness and its opposite, the life-draining power of refusing to forgive. In 1986 my sister, Linden, was a grad student at Texas A&M. She had been in College Station for only two months when she was killed by a stranger who invaded her apartment while high on drugs. Needless to say, my mother was devastated by this event, as were my brother, my soon-to-be-ex brother-in-law and me. The killer admitted the crime, avoiding the death penalty in a tradeoff for life (which, in Texas, is a minimum of 20 years).
My mother was never able to forgive Linden's killer. Both my brother and b-i-l threatened revenge if this man were paroled.
LSS, here's what happened to our family:Mother - suffered "mystery" ailments for the rest of her life, spent countless hours chasing medical intervention to help her feel better and lamenting her fate (Why did God do this to me?) because she never did feel better. She died an angry, bitter person. As I read her lifelong journals, I've found 20+ years of angst and complaints directed at God and "the system" for allowing her (Mom) to suffer this terrible injustice.
Brother - now twice-divorced and prefers not to have contact with me. Still expresses outrage that the killer is alive and our sister is not.
B-I-L - suffered health problems for the rest of his life. Died at age 59 of multiple invasive cancers. His sister tells me he hated the killer until the day he died and wished he had gone ahead and taken revenge (since he was going to die so soon, anyway).
So much time wasted hating, desiring revenge. Over the years, I tried to help my family come to acceptance through forgiveness. For a short time, no one would talk to me, saying I was "siding" with the killer. At every anniversary or holiday, even 20 years later, my mother would ask if I even remembered my sister, or if I was now "his" best friend.
But the truth is that I sided with myself. Only by finding the courage to forgive could I get on with life. My husband and children needed me to be there with them, not hanging around in The Land of Revenge and Hatred. Forgiveness was not easy; I struggled to stay balanced. Some days I hated that guy and wished every bad thing possible would happen to him. Ultimately, though, I discovered that forgiveness was not so much for him but for me. Peace is possible when I don't expend my energy hating. Forgiveness is not always perfect. It's just the healthier alternative.
Thanks for listening.
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