Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgiveness is the gift I give myself

Forgiveness breaks the silos of a disconnected humanity.
Bonnie Wesorick

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."

Yesterday, I watched, The Power of Forgiveness, an hour long documentary on what forgiveness means and why we need it in our lives, and our world.

One of the scenes that touched me profoundly was when a grandfather and father shared the story of how forgiveness has changed their lives, and the life of the grandfather's grandson who had killed the father's twenty-year-old son over a pizza. The two men have become best friends. They've created a project to take out to schools where they talk about forgiveness and its power to change lives and hearts. The grandson, who was fourteen when he killed the other man's son, is now in prison serving a twenty-year to life sentence. The father of the son whom he killed, stated, I am asking the state to shorten his sentence. Leaving him in prison for his adult life will not create a better man, just a bitter one.

The fourteen year old boy had never truly understood love. His mother was fifteen when she gave birth to him. His father a drug dealer. His father took off and so did his mother, leaving the boy to his own devices at the age of nine. The grandfather took him in, but didn't know how deeply his wounds cut into his soul.

When the man who's son he'd killed forgave him, the boy said that if this man can care enough to forgive him, then he needs to do something to honour that gift.

How much that man's forgiveness affected the young boy was a surprise to the father who lost his son.

Forgiveness, he said in the doc, not only changes you, it can change the world.

Underlying the message of the documentary is the message, We are all members of the human family. We all have inherent worth. A person is more than what they have done -- right or wrong.

Forgiveness is about looking into our hearts and finding compassion for ourselves and the wounded world around us.

Forgiveness reduces anger.

It is not a single moment in time. It is a continuum. WE need to work at forgiveness everyday.

When an angry milk delivery man walked into the Nickle Mines school and shot dead five young Amish girls and wounded five more, there was no doubt in the minds of the community that they needed to forgive the man. Because forgiveness is a way of living in peace, they chose to work forgiveness into the fabric of their healing.

Forgiveness is not about denying that what someone did is wrong. Forgiveness doesn't wash away the right to hold someone appropriately accountable. Forgiveness acknowledges that we feel the pain and hurt of what they did -- and want to move on from it, we want to reclaim ourselves from the debris of the past.

Forgiveness lets me seed the memory of past events with gentleness so that I can let go of the pain in the memory. I will always have the memory, but the memory will lose its control of me when I let go of the anger, the pain, and the desire for revenge. As long as the memory controls me, I am a victim of the past. I have no control in my own life.

Until compassion is born in my heart, I will never forgive.

I have worked at forgiveness, of myself, of Conrad who hurt me and those I love, and of the past. I am not complete. But I am closer to forgiving myself than I've ever been. And, I am forgiving Conrad with every step I take away from the anger and sorrow of what happened as I move with grace and ease into what is true today.

Some mornings, my brain seeks sweet revenge. In those moments, I must listen to my souls hunger for peace. In peaceful surrender I fall into love and awaken to the beauty and joy of the world around me.

Forgiveness is the gift I give myself so that I can love freely, live completely free of the past and step joyously into this moment, free to be a loving, compassionate and caring human being. In forgiveness, I awaken to the possibility of human redemption -- for myself and all the world.

The question is: Are you letting thoughts of sweet revenge keep you from seeding your heart with compassion? Are you hardening your heart and ignoring your soul's hunger for peace? What's keeping you from awakening to the possibility of a peaceful, loving heart?


paul maurice martin said...

"There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us."

That's really a useful thought - I think I would have stolen it for my current post if I'd run across yours sooner!

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Paul -- Thanks for dropping in. I checked out your blog and will be reading regularly -- I love the topic of forgiveness.

Paul's blog can be found at: