About Forgiveness

October 7th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

inspirational quote sayings

“You  must do the things you think you cannot do.”– Eleanor Roosevelt

    What is it about forgiveness that makes it so complex, so contradictory to our typical human nature?

    I always felt that because forgiveness was the hardest thing to do in our lives , especially if an offense was overwhelming, that it was something that we must learn to do.  I find this especially true when faced with the example of Jesus, who even forgave the people who wanted his death and those who actually killed him.

    But how is this even possible:  to forgive someone who has taken the life of your daughter?

    In 1993, Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar, was in South Africa to help its people to prepare for the the country’s first-ever multiracial elections in 1994.  Caught in a mob of  antiapartheid protesters, she was smashed with a brick and then brutally stabbed.

    Her family was contacted by the State Department and calls from the media started pouring in.  Amy’s mother, Linda, decided that, “We’re going to celebrate Amy’s life.”  Two months later, on a 10-day trip to Cape Town, the Biehls were struck by the expressions of grief offered by many black South Africans.  Learning more about the country, it’s lack of education, extreme poverty and hunger, Linda began to understand the rage that killed her daughter.  The family decided to keep Amy’s dreams of a better South Africa alive.  They created The Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, which included a self-sustaining bakery (employing 30 people) called “Amy’s Bread – The Bread of Hope and Peace”, also, after-school projects in the black township of Guguletu, and a driving range intended to keep kids off the street.   In addition, the Trust also operated an education project aimed at eradicating AIDS.

    After four years, two of the men (Nofemela and Peni) who had helped kill Amy, had gotten out of prison and asked to meet the Biehls.  They had deeply changed in prison and felt that they need to say “sorry” to Amy’s parents.  Peni said, “She convinced us that this was not the end of our lives.”  Nofemela, who’d had a baby daughter after prison said, “Amy Biehl should have children.  When I think about that, I cry with pain.”

    …….And Jesus said to her, “Neither will I condemn thee.  Go and sin no more.”–John 8:11

    Linda saw the good in each of the young men’s hearts:  “I don’t see them as evil people.  They have taken responsibility for their actions and asked for forgiveness.”  In response to that request,  and in an act of remarkable forgiveness, Linda hired the two men to help with the bakery and after-school projects.

    Linda Biehl pointed out that forgiveness of such a tragic act of violence did not happen overnight.   But with the passage of time, a bond developed between two different worlds and cultures, and it became possible.  The forgiveness of overwhelming loss started first with understanding, progressed to reflection, remorse, the request by the perpetrators to forgive them their sins, and in the end, it culminated with the compassion that teaches us how to forgive someone, anyone, everyone.

    The most important and surprising thing about forgiveness, as  difficult as it is, is that it can still be learned and then given:  freeing both those doing the forgiving as well as the forgiven.


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