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Forgiveness

[Photo: Raven Cloak by Eye-Appeal]

In catching up on the day's news this morning, I was reading a synopsis of Monday's shootings at the Pennsylvania Amish school. If you're not familar with the story, in short, a man invaded an Amish school and shot 10 girls (five have since died) execution style before taking his own life. The following quote from the story caused me to take emotional pause and reflect on whether or not I would be capable of such strength and wisdom if challenged with a similar situation:


"As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, he was making a point, just saying to the family, 'We must not think evil of this man,' " the Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN.

"It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry."

"We must not think evil of this man." Wow. What an earth shattering statement. Would you be able to view the situation in such a manner? Would you be able to foster feelings of understanding and forgiveness instead of reacting with anger, revenge and hate?

Although most of us will not be faced with such horrible circumstances during our lifetimes, I think it is important that the words of this wise man find a home in our hearts. Many times when we feel wronged or hurt our reaction is purely emotional and we allow pain and anger to rule our minds, emotions and reactions. Perhaps by remembering the immense strength and wisdom displayed by this grandfather when faced with our own trials, we will be able to let compassion, forgiveness and love rule our minds and hearts instead.

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I just read about this on another site a minute before reading your post. It is a most amazing response, and a great model for us all to try to follow.

That is one wise man.

Mike: Silly me thought mine was the only blog you read! ;)

I am torn between whether or not this is strength or pacifism. I wonder what goes through his mind if this is his primary reaction to this event. It would be interesting to see what the consequences of this belief is.

What if we had responded to 9/11 in this way? What if the ginman had not killed himself? Could we forgive him, but also put him in jail for life?

This poses so many questions.

It is the epitome of turning the other cheek. It is astonishing in this day and age to actually hear an authentic tone of forgiveness.

That being said Pacifism paints a huge red target on your forehead because aggressors seek victims who aren't going to put up a struggle. As wonderful as it all sounds had that asshole been captured alive and feigned repentence in an Amish court he would be free to kill again...a true sociopath can manipulate others without raising his blood pressure and would not hesitate to take advantage of their unrealistic outlook on things.

The mere concept of random is foreign to the Amish because they believe in a structured Creator centered universe.

While I admire their Idealsim I would not hesitate to permanently erase or contain psycopathic killers with extreme prejudice.
Personally I am not hindered by any notions that the devil made this asshole bind and execute beautiful innocent schoolgirls.
He got off way too easy.

I don't necessarily agree that forgiving the man and not viewing him as evil equates with thinking that the he should not be punished or suffer the consequences of his actions. I can't speak as to what form of punishment the Amish would deem appropriate, but I don't personally believe that, had the man survived, he should have been free to live a normal life (nor do I think that's what the grandfather beleived).

However, I do believe that the man's comment speaks volumes about personal power and not letting yourself be a victim of circumstance. When faced with difficult situations people can react with anger, hatred and revenge. But reacting in such a way allows the wrong-doer to have power over you. By reacting with forgiveness and compassion, one retains his personal power and deals with the situation without being blinded by rage. In this state, you can still feel that just and appropriate consequences must be served where necessary.

Angela's comment is right on the mark, in my opinion. Ignorance is the primary cause for revengeful thinking in a case like this (please don't take "ignorance" as an insult--it's the particular Buddhist term we apply to not knowing the True Nature of things; there is no judgementalism in it). Anger toward this killer only furthers our own suffering. My own personal experience shows me that revenge does nothing but further my own mental suffering (only later did I learn that Buddhism teaches this as well).

However, by no means do I think this man should have walked free had he survived. Such a heinous crime... he was likely to inflict harm on others had he walked free, hence he needed to have been locked up. I see no conflict between holding a pacifist viewpoint and choosing to lock this man up for life for everyone's safety. I think those are two different things. Pacifism (or forgiveness, whatever aspect of the Grandfather's action you want to emphasize in this case) allows you, as Angela noted, to maintain your center, your true love of other beings, your understanding that they are not really different from you. Deciding to lock this man up is preventing further harm from occurring, without unduly harming him.

It's very interesting to hear different views on this topic, something I've thought about a good deal here.

Perhaps he learned how to be truly forgiving at Jesus Camp....

It was very noble....not many could say those words.

I agree with Mike and Angela. I don't think forgiveness or Pacifism means letting the man go any more than locking him up is vengeful. The key is to what is good for the individual and society.

Society may need this man taken away (had he lived) so that he did not further endanger his fellow citizens. At the same time, the grandfather may need to forgive the man so that he did not carry anger with him for the rest of his days. I think you can forgive without condining the actions, it may be through forgiveness that the family can move on from the tragedy.

Great stuff everyone!

I just heard on the radio that the widow of the gun man attended one of the girl's funerals and that the victims' families are reaching out to the shooter's family. What acts of love and compassion by the victim's family. While it is a logical conclusion that the shooter's family is not responsible for his actions, it would seem to be a difficult conclusion to make when the tragedy is so fresh. I think it is often lost in such situations that the family of the perpetrator is suffering just as much as the families of the victims. Perhaps this is because of the manner in which the media covers such stories. I am a bit surprised that there is so much coverage of the Amish's outreach to the shooter's family.

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