When Charles Roberts gunned down five girls in a Amish school, the nation was horrified. When the Amish community lined around forgive him and his family, the nation was stunned. How could the family and friends of the dead possibly forgive a person who killed five innocent children in cold blood? How could they honor the memories of these beautiful little girls after forgiving the person who sent them for their death? How could families sit back to meals 3 x a day, looking at the empty place at the table, and still forgive the person who took away a beloved child and sister?
The answer lies in a significant truth about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about letting someone “make do” with evil deeds. Forgiveness is approximately redeeming relationships by building them on truth.
Some individuals commented on the Amish willingness to forgive by noting that the killer had never expressed any remorse. The note he left behind only clouded attempts to know his actions. It didn’t include anything remotely like remorse. The killer’s final act was to kill himself, destroying any hope that he might later express remorse. Many people felt that Charles Roberts didn’t deserve forgiveness, and most especially, he didn’t deserve forgiveness from the parents of girls he killed.
When Jesus taught about forgiveness, he never said that forgiveness was to be determined by remorse. He taught us to pray saying, “Forgive us our trespasses, even as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There is nothing because prayer that suggests we ought to attend until wrongdoers say “I’m sorry.” A number of the people who hurt us never will say they are sorry. They may not feel they have done anything wrong a course in miracles podcast. If they do sense any error on their part, they may continue to justify their behavior in a variety of creative ways, always finding some solution to excuse themselves from any need certainly to apologize. If we simply forgive those who apologize first, we might not forgive many people.
The Amish recognized the actual problem that would arise should they didn’t forgive the murderer of the children. They knew that the painful wounds within their hearts where their children were ripped out of the lives would fester and spread if not healed by forgiveness. We often believe that forgiveness is just a gift to usually the one who behaved badly, nevertheless the folks who are harmed want it just like much. The myths surrounding the Hatfields and the McCoys or Romeo and Juliet are designed on truth we can observe every day. The Balkan peninsula has become iconic for its fixation on wrongs perpetrated hundreds of years in the past. Unwillingness to forgive eventually transforms into a dangerous force that cannot be subdued without the act of forgiveness.
The Amish quickly responded for their tragedy by embracing the family of the murderer within their forgiveness, since they practice forgiveness within their daily lives. It is hard to forgive, and just like weight-bearing exercise allows a development of use ever heavier weights, practicing forgiveness in small things prepares a person to forgive in large things. When this tragedy struck, the Amish already knew that they needed to forgive the killer and his family. They recognized that there might be no healthy relationship involving the Amish and the family of the killer if this disgraceful behavior were allowed to construct barriers between them. The Amish burst through the barriers of shame and fear and pain with forgiveness modeled on the grace of God toward sinners. They didn’t forgive the killer and his family out of a need certainly to hide the shameful act; they did it in order to deal with the shameful act.
Forgiveness is all about dealing with reality and accepting truth. The Amish didn’t try to share with anyone that what Charles Roberts did was “okay.” They acknowledged the horror of his behavior and thought we would forgive in order to bring that horrible event in to the light of God’s love and grace. By forgiving the killer and his family, they opened themselves to God’s work of love within their hearts, healing their memories, strengthening them to get through every day, providing them with a cure for a future over time and eternity that has been not doomed to despair by the poisonous blend of grief and vengeance. Likewise, because the Roberts family received forgiveness, they, too, were permitted to deal with reality. They did not want to attempt to hide themselves from the vengeful stares and ostracism of the Amish. They did not want to attempt to justify what Charles did or even to won’t speak of him lest someone remember what he did. The forgiveness of the Amish plainly uncovered the horrible truth of the horrible act and prevented it from destroying either the Amish or the family.
Forgiveness is approximately getting rid of victims. Five girls died, and numerous others were injured, some permanently. In a Balkan mentality, this event will be mourned and memorialized for generations to come. The families of the victims would consider the family of the perpetrator for opportunities to repay wounds with wounds. The transactions of vengeance would continue for hundreds of years until nobody really knew anymore what it had been all about. It would simply be “us” against “them.”
This is a picture of our human predicament. Plenty of our behavior is colored by somebody’s unwillingness to forgive. Too many of our relationships are designed on the shoddy foundation of lies – the unwillingness to manage the facts and accept the facts and love one another in the light of truth. It is very difficult to forgive, because it is so very hard to deal with the truth. We must overcome that problem.