What He Said
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Jesus Christ
He hung there racked in pain, after having endured severe torture and humiliation, an innocent man in the midst of being crucified by one of the most brutally dehumanizing forces in human history…he had every reason to hate, every right to call for vengeful violence… so what did he do?
Even while being murdered, Jesus refused to give into the darkness of hate, offering another way instead, the way of forgiveness. This wasn’t the only time Jesus talked about forgiveness (70 x 7), but it is the example that best illustrates his willingness to give up his life without betraying this ideal.
Just a few hours earlier Jesus had healed the ear of one of the men coming to arrest him, rebuking his own disciples by saying, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Throughout his teachings, Jesus was able to convey his deep understanding of the importance of human connection and its relationship to the ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’ up until the very end of his life. Empathy allowed him to recognize the suffering and confusion of all people; his teachings help to clarify the ideals of how we should treat each other. Instead of hate and blame or calling for violent retribution, Jesus does the opposite. He forgives with a deep understanding that humans, confused and full of fear, ‘know not what they do.’
Who Do We Want To Be?
“Without forgiveness, there is no future” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The United States is often referred to as a ‘Christian’ nation because a significant part of the population identify as Christians and are supportive of politicians who claim to do the same. Yet, when faced with the very complex challenges of the world today, few prominent leaders who call themselves Christians have considered, much less mentioned, the important role of forgiveness in solving the many problems we currently face. The violent rhetoric coming from some on the campaign trail sounds far more like ISIS than Jesus, offering promises of perpetual war surely resulting in more failure, more escalation, and more suffering of innocents. More conflict and hurt, less understanding, and far less harmony. Imagine a world where congregations of Christians across this country rise up together and insist that those wanting to lead our country take us in a direction away from escalating violence instead of endorsing it.
In order for things to change we must begin with the courage to look beyond our fear of abhorrent behavior to find our common humanity. The consequences of violence and mistreatment of each other are grave. Justice and accountability are certainly valid needs that can be met without violence. Forgiveness does not mean excusing or dismissing disconnecting behavior. It is, however, liberating oneself from allowing that behavior to retain a foothold in the present and future.
True forgiveness takes will. It is not naive or aloof, but instead a gift of presence; the epitome of grace, strength, and clarity. The gift of forgiveness is not just a gift we may give to others, but ultimately a gift we give to ourselves, a recognition of inter-being. The willingness to reconcile and forgive is challenging, it can take a long time and will leave a scar… but the price of a corrosively enduring grudge ends up costing so much more. Make no mistake, the power of forgiveness is real, it is a touch of merciful divinity that transcends boundaries and beliefs. The relief that is felt when forgiveness happens manifests in a new found freedom. In story after story after story, the beauty of forgiveness is inspiring and lives on as an example of how we are at our best.
The Strong Forgive
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Recent post Love > Fear begins by stating:
It has long been my belief that the greatest act of strength of any human being is to absorb negative energy and then return it with positive energy…
Forgiveness is one of the most empowering ways this can be done. The path of forgiveness is a commitment to a process; by choosing this path we choose deeper understanding and connection. We choose to let go of ego; we are empowered to let go of what happened for what could be. Choosing forgiveness demonstrates respect and consideration, strengthens character and allows for healing to begin and anger to subside. It’s not easy. Forgiveness takes strength, but those strong enough to commit to the process of forgiveness are rewarded with a profound wisdom.
Stories that illustrate the power of forgiveness:
Egyptian Christians demonstrate the love of Christ amidst unspeakable tragedy… “May God forgive ISIS for the pain and suffering we have been though. I gave the best gift to God. My son.” … and, “I was very sad when I heard the news of the air strikes lead by the Egyptian military against ISIS. God asked us to even love our enemies.”
This story hits especially close to home… it is a story about my late father, Dale Daverman, and his journey of forgiveness with Ross Hayes, a man who would become one of his closest friends in the last years of his life.
When her son was taken from her, Samereh Alinejad lived for years with deeply rooted grief and anger toward the man who killed her son at knifepoint. When the time came to carry out his death sentence, Alinejad, while charged with emotion, saw the great benefit that forgiving her son’s killer would bring to her and those around her. With a brisk slap to the face, she let out her years of suffering and she found peace again.
With a new baby on the way, Erik Fitzgerald’s small family was beginning to grow. A full-time pastor with a storybook life, Fitzgerald’s foundation was shaken the day his wife and unborn baby were taken from him. Asleep at the wheel, Matt Swatzell struck the car that Fitzgerald’s wife and children were in. The grief was unimaginable, yet there was only one option for Erik, to pass on the forgiveness that he had been blessed with to the man who accidentally changed his world. Today, the two men have a close relationship, and Fitzgerald has coached Swatzell into a life of forgiveness that may well have been out of his reach if not for the compassion and love shown to him by the pastor.
Ady Guzman-DeJesus had her world taken from her the day that her daughter of 13 was accidentally shot on her schoolbus by a classmate showing off his stepfather’s gun. Ady’s reaction moved even the judge who presided over the case. She chose to forgive the boy who shot her daughter, and went on to convince the judge to give him a lesser sentence.
In common with other shamanic traditions, the Hawaiian tradition teaches that all life is connected. Ho’oponopono is, therefore, not only a way of healing ourselves, but others and our world as well. – Timothy Freke, Shamanic Wisdomkeepers
The Time Is Now
This is the time of year that tends to bring a heightened sense of grace and good will. Allow the power of forgiveness to open the doors in your life wide open for change and growth in ways you might never imagine.
Consider who or what in your life might need to be forgiven, as well as those relationships that might mend by asking for forgiveness. Hold the idea that forgiveness heals these wounds in your heart and be mindful of ways to apply the power of forgiveness in every relationship.