Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we’ve suffered, to forgive the one who inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.
I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched the late news last night. I don’t normally watch because the stories always make me feel heavy. The weight of the world seems to settle on my shoulders as I wonder how, as a human race – setting aside race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation – but as a human race we have become so goddamned full of hate.
Then one by one, the family members of the victims’ in the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting stood in front of the man who murdered the people they loved and held dearest in their hearts, people they will never see, hear, or touch again…and they forgave him.
“I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her ever again. But I forgive you.”
“You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you.”
“You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know… And it will never be the same. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you. May God have mercy on you.”
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate…everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live on…..Hate won’t win.”
Hate won’t win.
Those three words were the last I heard before I went to sleep last night and are still there this morning. I want desperately to hold on to them, to believe them. I pray to a deity to which my belief wavers from day to day and I wonder if it’s possible.
How far gone are we as a race? As a human race?
I know there is good in the world. I see it every day. Sadly, I see far too much more hate and prejudice and it is no wonder I feel so tired. I have brought children into a world where they have to learn to hide under desks or in closets and locked, gated fences are put around elementary schools to keep out those who would do them harm. And for what?
Hate. Anger. Mental illness. Belief in a cause that resents our freedom.
We go to the movies, to church, to the grocery store….the simple act of driving a car down the freeway and these all become a crap shoot.
Kids are beat up and mentally tortured for being different, or just being themselves.
Husbands kill wives, wives kill husbands. They kill their own children in the heat of a moment to hurt one another.
Children are neglected and abused, going to bed hungry because we live in a society where getting rich and gaining power is more important than taking care of our fellow man, making sure familes are fed, clothed, and have a place to lay their head at night that doesn’t sit on four tires.
Evil preys on our children, both inside and outside the family, and it knows no boundaries.
There are so many, many more stories on the evening news and some we will never even hear about. Every moment, anger and hate are perpetuated and we are fully on guard every time something like Charleston happens. Or are we?
Has this become the new normal?
I despise the idea that this is a very large part of the world my children are growing up in.
What Dylan Roof did was wrong. It was evil personified. But what those family members of his victims did was goodness and mercy. I am sure they will be relieved to see justice served but in their own hearts today, I hope they find peace. They have done themselves a great service. They have fostered a spirit of love and forgiveness, turning from the perpetuation of hate and offering hope.
It doesn’t make the world perfect. There will still be prejudice and judgment, bullying and violence. I know, in all honesty, that if someone was to hurt someone I love, just the thought of it boils my blood and vengeance is the first thought I have.
Perhaps I was crying with a mixture of emotion, realizing that what these people were doing was monumental, but knowing in my heart I would never be able to do what they have done….offer forgiveness to someone who took someone so precious to me.
Obviously there should be forgiveness, if for no other reason than to rest our own weary souls and to teach the next generation that it can be done…that love, compassion, grace, and mercy do still exist on this messy planet.
Can we learn, as hard as it might be, to forgive?
Of course, this is not to be confused with forgetting or becoming complacent. But obviously, fighting back, not with vengeful, unnecessary violence, but forgiveness is possible.
Is this the way to learn as well as to teach that hate won’t win and to begin healing a broken race?
Or are we too late?
Photo credit: flickr.com