Can you forgive even when the person who wronged you did so in the most horrendous way? We seem to be living in a world of retribution. Of righting wrongs by incarcerating or killing wrong-doers. The news is rife with stories of such things. The news reporters talk about putting politician’s feet to the fire to get them to fess up.
It seems that on a whole, mankind is seeking someone to blame for its pain and the present state of the planet. Funny the word mankind, man-kind. Kindness of man? Can we be kind to one we consider to be evil? What about children who are taught to hate from the adults in their lives. Do we find these people unforgivable?
My grandmother was shocked the day I arrived home from school weeping. She did not understand why I was so bereft at from her perspective, the justice brought upon a boy who nearly killed me, as she saw it. In school, I was small for my age, from the city, and smarter than the other kids. My first day of school, I was accosted by Laverna Campbell. The country bumpkin kids, thought that I must be tough coming from the city. Funnily enough I was six years old. They wanted to teach me a lesson. She bumped into me several times until I lost my temper and for the first time in my life got into a fight on the front lawn of my new school on the first day of school. My sisters and I were left to be reared by our grandparents as was the way in Jamaica. I was unhappy about being left behind and as the eldest was angry that at the age of five and a half I was having to also care for my younger siblings.
There was one boy in Mizpah Moravian School who, taller than almost everyone, and light-complected took it upon himself to torment the younger and smaller kids in the school. He walked with a cockiness that caused the little kids to cower when he appeared. I did not cower. Tiny and angry, I faced him one day when he targeted one of the first graders. I would not stand for it and stood between the child and him. The teachers intervened and things seemed to get better until recess time later in the afternoon when he swung the huge iron gate at the entrance of the school, glancing my head and sent me flying out into the street, knocking me cold. I guess an uproar ensued. I must have been unconscious for a while because I was told later that my grandmother, frightened that I might have been killed, showed up at school and gave the boy a piece of her mind. We were not ushered to hospitals in those days we were left until nature took its course. I survived but later the same day, the boy attacked another child whose brothers, three were there to defend their younger sibling. They beat the boy to an inch of his life. Each time he tried to stand he would fall over. I was distraught at the sight of him. I cried at the pitiful image he made as the victim.
I had always heard the statement that in order to understand a person it is necessary to walk a mile in his shoes. When I was small I took the statement literally. That day I understood what it meant. I heard in my head the words. “The bad man believes in the moment that his actions are right, but he is the most piteous sight when he is made to answer for what he has done.” I have empathy for everyone, even when I am angry at them. These day I don’t get angry at too many people, because I understand the root of their actions. Is it possible to forgive an individual knowing that he or she was taught to hurt others because they were relentlessly hurt themselves? We do have a choice, yet some of us never learned about those choices.
Forgiveness can bring us to a state of grace.