The gift of forgiveness

It is rare that I am home watching TV on a Friday night (we are firm believers in trying to kick off the weekend with a diversion), but last night I found myself watching Dateline for the first time in a year. The program was depressing, but I was caught up in the report within minutes. It was about a man and woman (brother and sister) who, as teenagers in 1979, were the victims of a home invasion. Their father was a prominent Oklahoma minister and he and their mother were both senselessly murdered in the random attack. The children both survived, although they were critically wounded. The Dateline report was about this man's and woman's journeys since that horrible event -- the agony of the murderers' trials and multiple court appeals, the failed relationships they experienced, and how they eventually began to heal and were able to move forward. While the experience will obviously impact them the rest of their lives, the real focus of the story became the young man's ability to forgive the person who pulled the trigger that horrendous night. A lot of the questions to him centered around, "how could you possibly forgive someone who did that?"

What struck me in all the questions and answers about forgiveness was that no one ever mentioned that forgiveness does not mean condoning the hurtful action that occurred. When I was trained by the Grief Recovery Institute as a group facilitator, that point was one that hit me hard. I had never thought of it that way. The Institute's philosophy is that forgiveness really means, "I am not going to let this hurt me anymore." By looking at it that way, it gives at least a minuscule piece of responsibility (and control) to the person who feels they have been wronged. It becomes their decision as to how they want to move forward.

I was very angry at a certain individual caregiver who failed us when Kathleen died. I could not have been convinced at the time that there was any way I could forgive him. When I started to look at forgiveness as setting myself free rather than letting him totally off the hook, I was better able to let go and move on.

If you find yourself angry and unable to forgive someone, I hope that you give this some thought, because you might find that it is helpful. No one deserves to live their life filled with anger, and I certainly believe that Kathleen would not have wanted her death to result in that for me.

8 comments:

  1. "I am not going to let this hurt me anymore." - But how? How do I get to the point where I convince myself NOT to let it/or them hurt me? I have a lot of anger issues with my own father and obsess about it all of the time and would love to know how to convince myself that I'm not going to let it hurt me anymore.

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  2. It's definitely a tough concept to both understand and accept. I would recommend reading the book, "The Grief Recovery Handbook," by John James and Russell Friedman. The book will give you a much better explanation than I can, but basically it's the idea that the things that happened "yesterday" cannot be changed, but how we move forward today and tomorrow is at least a little bit in our control. So often the anger we feel toward someone who has wronged us hurts us a lot more than the person we are mad at. If we can get to a point where we can say, "I'm not going to let them hurt me anymore," we can better let go, move on, and take some control back of our lives. I wish you the best.

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  4. I just lost my baby less than four months ago. A baby we'd got after trying to conceive for a year. Am over 30. And really not confident if I will have a baby again.

    I'm angry with lot many people. With the doctor, the nurses in nicu, insensitive family members, insensitive friends, family & friends who have rushed out of the picture as quickly as a lightening would come & go, insensitive ex-employer. At the moment I don't think I will ever forgive most of them.

    But your post made me think what would my baby son would have wanted. For once I pictured him as a soul thinking for me, thinking about me.

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  5. I think that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another, so all I can say is how I felt. But you are correct, after months of feeling helpless and hopeless and wondering if I would ever really feel happiness again, it hit me -- would Kathleen really have wanted her short life to have changed me that completely? Once I looked at it that way, I realized (for me) that the best way I could honor her life and let the world know who much I loved her, was to try and find ways to positively touch other people. I had no idea how I was going to do that, only that I was going to try working toward that end.

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  6. I found this quote online that made me think, and I wanted to share it.

    "Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved."

    Author unkown -- found on www.thinkexist.com

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