How difficult is it to forgive someone who has hurt you in some way? In previous experience, I find it a lot more difficult that it sounds. I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue recently after hearing the stories of people who forgave those who have caused them so much pain.
“Forgiveness will never fail to free you.” Jerrold Mundis
The first person I came across, about a year ago, was Robert Rule. His daughter Linda was just one of the victims of serial killer Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer. Ridgeway was convicted of killing 48, confessed to 71 and probably killed over 90 females between 1982 and 1998 and is one of the world’s most prolific serial killers and he is the biggest serial killer in US history.
During Gary Ridgway’s trial, family members of those he killed were invited to speak to him. All of them said things like he was an “animal” and one of his victim’s mothers wished that he would “have a long, suffering, cruel death”. I don’t think any of us would argue with sentiments like that after what Gary Ridgeway had inflicted on so many families.
The one exception to this was Robert Rule, as this video shows. What he said silenced the courtroom and the assembled media from across the world.
“Mr. Ridgway, there are people here that hate you. I`m not one of them. I forgive you for what you`ve done. You have made it difficult to live up to what I believe and it is what God says to do, and that`s to forgive. And He doesn`t say to forgive just certain people, He says to forgive all. So, you are forgiven.”
Gary Ridgway, who sat emotionless throughout the speeches from the families of his victims openly wept when Robert Rule spoke to him
One of the most challenging articles I have ever read was featured in the New York Times in 2014 and was published for the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. It featured those who perpetrated the genocide and those who had families members killed. What is amazing was the fact that the majority of those survivors who were interview said how they had forgave those who had carried out the atrocity.
François Sinzikiramuka, perpetrator (left) with Christophe Karorero, survivor.
Sinzikiramuka: “I asked him for forgiveness because his brother was killed in my presence. He asked me why I pleaded guilty, and I replied that I did it as someone who witnessed this crime but who was unable to save anybody. It was the order from authorities. I let him know who the killers were, and the killers also asked him for pardon.”
Karorero: “Sometimes justice does not give someone a satisfactory answer — cases are subject to corruption. But when it comes to forgiveness willingly granted, one is satisfied once and for all. When someone is full of anger, he can lose his mind. But when I granted forgiveness, I felt my mind at rest.”
“In these days of guilt complexes, perhaps the most glorious word in the English language is ‘forgiveness.’” Billy Graham
The last person I heard about in a television documentary last week. She is Eva Kor and a survivor of the Holocaust. Eva was born in 1934 in Port, Romania where her family were the only Jewish residents. In 1940 a Hungarian Nazi guard occupied her village and in 1944 her family were transported to the regional ghetto and a few weeks later they were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
As a twin, Eva and her sister Miriam were subjected to human experimentation under the “Doctor of Auschwitz” Josef Mengele. She was one of 1,500 twins who were subjected to these practices and most of the children died from the experiments. Her parents and two older sisters did not survive Auschwitz and only Eva and Miriam survived.
After the war Eva, Miriam and their aunt returned to Romania but in 1950 they were given permission to leave Romania and the family emigrated to Israel. Eva joined the Israeli Army and rose to the rank of Sergeant Manor in the Engineering Corps before marring an American, Michael Kor, and a fellow survivor of the Holocaust and they moved to the United States.
She founded CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) in 1984 and tours schools giving lecturers on her experiences at the hands of the Nazis. In April 2015 she travelled to Germany to testify in the trial of former Nazi Oskar Groening. During the trial Eva shared an embrace with Oskar with Eva thanking him for his willingness, at age 93, to testify as to what happened at Auschwitz.
Eva returns to Auschwitz every year to remember those who died there.
In the documentary I watched (‘The Girl Who Forgave The Nazis’) she said:
“I believe that forgiveness is such a powerful thing – it’s free, it works, it has no side effects. This troubled world desperately needs something besides punishment…Forgiveness is such a powerful thing and maybe if I live long enough and I talk long enough about it that people would try….This world desperately needs forgives and I want everyone to help me sow the seeds of forgiveness throughout the world.”
I am by no means claiming that forgiveness is easy and as I said I have struggled with this in the past. But I will be making a conscious effort in the future.