Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness

"When deep injury is done to us, 
we never recover until we forgive...
Forgiveness does not change the past, 
but it does enlarge the future."

The Amish school shooting was a shooting at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 2006.  Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and eventually shot ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five, before committing suicide in the schoolhouse.
The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location

On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, "We must not think evil of this man." Another Amish father noted, "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God."
Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."

A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.  Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts' widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him.  The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.  About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts' funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victimsMarie Roberts wrote an open letter to her Amish neighbors thanking them for their forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She wrote, "Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you've given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you."

Some commentators criticized the swift and complete forgiveness with which the Amish responded, arguing that forgiveness is inappropriate when no remorse has been expressed, and that such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil; others were supportive.  Donald Kraybill and two other scholars of Amish life noted that "letting go of grudges" is a deeply rooted value in Amish culture, which remembers forgiving martyrs including Dirk Willems and Jesus himself. They explained that the Amish willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong, but rather constitutes a first step toward a future that is more hopeful.  (from Wikipedia)


Steve said...

So true! Something that is so hard for non-Christians to see and put into practice, but forgiveness is so easy and basic for a Believer.

Thank you for the reminder, Jean.


Jeano said...

Actually, for me, I find it quite difficult at times. I keep running smack dab into stories and examples of forgiveness. I spent a lot of time thinking about it today.

Steve said...


After more thought, I agree it is hard to forgive. I was thinking of the mindset of the Amish that I've read about. It seems to be their first nature. I am intrigued by their thought processes and how different they are than mine or society's.

I would suggest a book, Switched Off. It is more about living a non motor driven lifestyle, but in the end on man says they have calculated what time they have and choose to use it the most economically, because it makes their life better.

Forgiveness seems like that; it makes my life better.

Jeano said...

That sounds like a great book! The more I have thought, prayed, read about forgiveness and grace, the more I KNOW for certain that this is the best way to live. That makes perfect sense, "economically", to live a lifestyle of grace and forgiveness. The opposite... bitterness, vengeance, etc. just serves to shorten my life and make those around me, miserable. I'm sure you've heard it said that being bitter is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. (or something like that). This is an ongoing dialog in my mind and heart.
Sometimes I wish I were Amish.

Jeano said...

Bam! I got hit with it again, in the movie we're watching tonight, "Invictus". Early in the film Nelson Mandela says "Forgiveness starts here, Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon."