On 5th December 2013, Ronnie Smith, a chemistry teacher in a school in Benghazi, Libya was shot and killed by unknown gunmen while on his morning jog. In response to her husband’s murder, his wife Anita wrote a letter to the Libyan people in which she forgave the attackers and professed great love for the Libyan people. She was later interviewed on CNN where she once again reiterated that she forgave her husband’s killers.
In forgiving the murderers of her husband, Anita Smith ensured that she was extending great kindness—towards herself. Yes, you read that right. Forgiveness is an act of kindness to self. By forgiving the attackers, Anita freed herself from a lifelong bondage of hatred, anger and pain. She refused to punish herself for the misgivings and mistakes of others.
That pretty much sums up the objective of our cover story this month—that unless we forgive, we are destined to live a life of bondage. It’s like we sentence ourselves to a prison—of resentment. Like Brother Ananda Abhaya Karuna says, “Resentment is always about the past, but it takes place in the present.”
Brother Ananda, a long-term prisoner at the Branchville Correctional Facility in the United States, was invited to give a talk on anger and temper management to his inmates and the staff of the prison. Though I’ve written about forgiveness on many occasions, yet I find Brother Ananda’s insights compelling: “Forgiveness is not condoning unacceptable behaviour or making excuses for others. It means that we let go of the obsession we have with wrongs committed against us and refuse to let that person hurt us anymore. In forgiveness, we neither pretend [that] the past did not happen nor [do we] forget the past. We simply choose to live in the present, remembering some things so that we don’t hurt ourselves again. Put in another way: we remember without hate.”
But the question is: how does one go about forgiving someone who has wronged us? Colleen Haggerty will tell you. She knows. She lost her leg in an accident caused by a reckless 21-year-old, and for whom she harboured enormous resentment and anger for 15 long years. When she finally realised that her anger and hatred was only robbing her of peace and joy, she decided to let go.
As you read Colleen’s heartrending journey of letting go years of pent up bitterness, you will see that forgiveness unlocks tremendous amounts of emotional energy. It’s like a master key to the doors of heaven, which we keep locked with our own resentments.
Once you’re done reading Colleen’s account, I invite you to be kind to yourself and try the power of forgiveness in your life. Then write back to me with your experiences.
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