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The Art of Forgiveness

07/23/2016 09:30:38 PM


Saturday, July 23rd, 2016
Recently, as I was about to conduct a funeral, the undertaker said something I found peculiar. He said, ”we will cut the ribbons for the children separately and for the brothers separately. It is best not to bring them together.” Also recently this occurred: Two daughters were crying before the final service for their mother when one of them lashes out at the other:” Now you are here to cry. Where were you when mom was alive?” These are not imaginary situations. They sadly are brutally real.
As I begin my annual preparation for the high holy days, I think about these types of situations. Situations that I have experienced throughout the last year and the effects to those walking around carrying mountains of resentments and harboring a multitude of festering angers, grudges and hates.
Undoubtably, through the course of every day life, we get bruised and hurt, slighted and slandered, and outraged and offended. Our words have been distorted and our motives have been impugned. A common reaction is to strike back ferociously or, if that is not immediately possible, to take solace in the thoughts of sweet revenge. Over time we allow our hurts to magnify. We nurse them along and watch them grow until they fill our minds our hearts and our souls.
But do we ever pause to think that revenge is not only sweet, it is exorbitantly costly? Do we stop to calculate the frightfully high price-tag attached to our hatreds and un-evened scores?
A real life example that teaches us how to keep our pain in perspective, comes from the parents of a man killed in the world trade center attack on September 11, 2001. Four days after the attack, hoping to find peace, after the loss of their son Greg had been killed, Orlando and Phyllis Rodriguez wrote A letter. It was written before the bombing of Afghanistan began. The open letter was entitled:” Not in our sons Name.”
Here is an excerpt of the letter the Rodriguez family wrote:
“We see our hurts and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about the disaster. But we read enough to sense that our government is headed in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands, dying, suffering and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our sons death……….Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.”
Years later Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez found an opportunity to truly live this challenge they posed to President Bush back in 2001. At a support group of fellow parents of 911 victims, Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez met Aicha el Wafi,the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui was found guilty of playing a role in the attacks on the World Trade Center. He was sentenced to a life in prison. To this day his mother does not know where he is or if he is even alive. According to their own testimony, the mother of the victim and the mother of the perpetrator felt mutual compassion for each other. Within a few hours of listening to each other’s stories and life experience they began to feel the pain in each other’s heart.
Today, Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el Wafi travel around the world sharing their real life story of forgiveness and healing. They offer the message of tolerance, patients and the desire to truly know the other person. The believe that with knowing each other, we are given the opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness.
I challenge you to think about the various opportunities that stand in front of you. Opportunities to forgive, to understand and to move forward in your life. I encourage you to share a time when you had to decide whether to forgive or not. How did that process play out for you?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Sat, 20 July 2024