December 30, 2009

Fear & Forgiveness

There was a man whose ambition in life was the Study of Forgiveness. For ten years, he studied forgiveness as therapy. For six years after that, he studied forgiveness as a science.

Then, one New Year's Eve, the man's aging mother was beaten to death with a crowbar in her own home after surprising a burglar who had broken in through her window. Though a suspect confessed to the crime and was brought to trial, he was released without ever being indicted on account of an "issue with the evidence."

Years later, the man who lost his mother continues to write, speak, and teach on the "Power of Forgiveness." In a 2007 interview, the man says,
I don't see how a person could walk into a situation where their mom was brutally murdered and be able to forgive. But I was given such an incredible gift to be able to study forgiveness -- scientifically, for six or seven years before this occurred, therapeutically for ten to twelve years before that -- and then when the moment came, you know, where I needed to put that into practice, the gift was already there.
Any person who pursues an understanding of forgiveness has her own reasons and motivations for doing so, whether they be academic, vocational, spiritual, or therapeutic. I, too, have my own personal reasons for seeking so fervently after this knowledge, and the peace and compassion I've gained from my research are unprecedented in my life thus far.

I believe everything that happens under the sun -- good and bad, momentous and trivial -- happens for a purpose. Maybe God saw fit to impart to me this drive for understanding in order to help me overcome the past, or to perfect my sad, flawed character. Or... He did for the man who lost his mother, maybe God is equipping me for something far worse than I've ever experienced in my thirty-something years on this earth. Maybe my "moment" hasn't yet come to pass, and these months of reading and reflecting and putting into practice are all preparatory.

The reflexive part of me panics and cowers, and fixes her fearful eyes on the next curve in the road. Why is this shield in my hands?

The faithful part of me sets aside the terror and accepts the worst I can imagine, because human love and compassion not only outlive pain -- they conquer it.

But I find with each passing day, it becomes more and more urgent, and more and more difficult to renew that faithful part of me. Like stepping closer and closer to the edge of a cliff. In moments of weakness, I ask myself, "Do I have what it takes to survive what the rest of my life holds?" I look around at the blessings in my life, the things I value more than life itself, and I ask, "Could I continue empty-handed?"

Yet I keep reading and reflecting and putting into practice, because I realize my pursuit of forgiveness is not a compulsion -- it's as necessary to me as air and water.

Further Reading

the man: Everett Worthington, Ph.D.
the mission: A Campaign for Forgiveness
the film: The Power of Forgiveness (also available to Netflix members to Watch Instantly online )
the outreach website:

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