To be wronged is nothing,
unless you continue to remember it. ConfuciusIn the news are often horrific crimes that make one wonder how anyone could fogive the perpetrators. But in one such crime, that of the Runions, an older couple who went to purchase a dream car from someone responding to their ad seeking the vehicle on Craigslist and who are now dead, is another reminder that those who are left behind are often much bigger than the crime. Virginia Owens, one of the Runion's daughters said in an interview:
We want the person who perhaps has wronged our family to know that God loves them and we will come to love them and forgive them as well. It is a process, but we will get through it, and we will get to that point... It's a daily, a constant effort at it... I refuse to allow any resentment to build up in my heart... I will forgive that person, because we're not just trying to free that person, we are also freeing ourselves.Robin Doan is another such case. In 2005 her parents and brother were shot to death by Levi King and survived apparently because Levi thought he had killed her. She was ten years old. What did she say about it at the trial?
Through tears she told King she is constantly haunted by her mother's scream and is still paranoid to go to sleep. She told King that she forgives him, she said she hopes one day when he meets God, he will ask for forgiveness too.And on 48 Hours this year she said:
I've endured this. But you're not taking my life away from me. I am not giving you that kind of control. I don't wanna live with the fact of being bitter and being angry all the time for what had happened. ...I did forgive Levi King, because me forgiving Levi King ... it was my sense of peace. And it was my sense of, "This is how I was raised, and this is my family coming out."This isn't to say that those who have experienced these challenges don't want the perpetrator to be disciplined. It just means they are releasing that person's power over them and their life. And perhaps even deeper, they recognize that each of us came into the world pure and innocent. Recalling that we are all brothers, all trying to find our way- some struggling more than others--allows us to have compassion for the person whose life brought them to such an act.
These two women are part of a growing group of people who refuse to be a part of violence even when another seems to force it upon them. Read about Immaculee Ilibagiza, Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix, Jean Paul Samputu, and a host of others who have walked this path. In each case, their response is one of forgiveness and movement toward peace.
What strikes me as sad is that those outside these situations are frequently vengeful, vindictive, and unforgiving, often thinking they are being supportive of the victim. When we are tempted to be so, recall the Zen story of the two monks who come to a stream. There a young woman begs for help to cross. The older, wiser monk carries her across on his back. Depending on the version of the tale, she may or may not be appreciative. But the younger monk is fuming at the older monk's action. Finally he says, "Why did you carry her?" And the wiser monk says, "I put her down on the far side of the stream-- why are you still carrying her?"