At last week’s double funeral service for De’Andre Ruffin and Jonathon Pierce, two men slain in Canton, Ohio, there were calls for forgiveness for the man accused of killing them.
Could you forgive someone who murdered your loved one for no discernible reason?
On its face, forgiveness makes no sense, which is what makes it so powerful and miraculous. It also helps to explain why so many of us are so lousy at it.
Forgiveness goes against our human nature, which tends to prefer that the dark places in our souls remain undisturbed.
Though forgiveness does not negate the need for justice, the kind of faith from which it comes can enable a grief-stricken mother to forgive someone else’s child for killing hers.
Pope John Paul II was known to visit Mehmet Ali Agca in prison and pray with him, though Agca had tried to kill the pope in 1982.
While we may not expect any less of a pope, such gestures overwhelm us when they’re offered up by ordinary people.
Read the online commentary section of any news outlet these days, and the consensus for every problem appears to be “hang ’em high.” We’re constantly told that vengeance would taste better, but true forgiveness is freedom. Unforgiveness shackles us to the perpetrator.
Forgiveness is a refusal to be a reflection of someone else’s shortcomings. It enables us to climb up to a higher plane. In that aspect, it’s a selfish act because it relieves us of the endless burden exacted by anger.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Reaching a place of forgiveness is neither easy nor simple, like some Hallmark TV special.
The journey is riddled with jagged stones and thorns of regret and what-might-have-been. Some people never get there.
In the Christian Scriptures, forgiveness is one of the key tenets of the faith. But you can draw up a play all you want. None of us unequivocally can state that we would be able to forgive another person for killing one of our loved ones. The best we can do is consider all the reasons why we should.
In a culture obsessed with the notion of fair play, forgiveness is difficult to achieve because it requires us to stand down and rein in our natural inclinations toward self-defense. It demands that we let go and move on, action that the outside world has deemed weakness.
The irony, of course, is that forgiveness always requires infinitely more strength than fighting back. The Scriptures record that in the final moments before his death, Jesus publicly pleaded for forgiveness for those responsible for his crucifixion, the message being that forgiveness is stronger than rancor, stronger than hatred, stronger than death itself.
One reason some Christians find themselves under fire these days is that even people who know virtually nothing about Christianity know that Jesus disbursed forgiveness much more often than judgment.
I recently heard a story about a circle of young friends who pooled their money to help out a friend — nothing unusual, except for the fact that the recipient is an ex-Nazi and the donors are black.
Such a gesture proves that the elements of forgiveness aren’t necessarily limited to religion. But it does show that forgiveness is the only path upon which we can find true and lasting inner peace.
Article by Cahrita Gashay taken from the Rockford Register Star
Charita Goshay is a columnist for the Canton Repository.