This very striking story ran in our city newspaper yesterday. I love hearing accounts of forgiveness so I tore it out to discuss around the dinner table tonight. True stories and good stories often resist simplistic “lessons,” but here are some scattered observations:
Forgiveness is so profoundly powerful and beautiful. I find that people of all faiths or no faith are powerfully struck when they hear of or witness someone refusing to exact vengeance. I read this back over a few times yesterday and couldn’t stop thinking about it on my morning run. The sheer beauty of this sort of thing touches the most fundamental elements of our humanity.
Forgiveness is risky. I was struck by the horror of what this man did to this woman. What kind of person would do that? I thought for a while that she should have gone through with the punishment. It would have sent a clear message to others in a part of the world where women often suffer injustice. What guarantee do we have that he won’t do it again?
That’s just it. Forgiveness doesn’t ask for guarantees. Forgiveness takes the risk.
Forgiveness doesn’t fix everything. The woman is still disfigured and blind. She’ll continue to have costly medical treatments. Nothing can restore the years she’s lost, her diminished future prospects, the pain to her family. Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee a Disney ending.
Forgiveness doesn’t clean up the whole mess. This man still faces possible punishment from the court. Things like this often kick into gear all sorts of government bureaucratic and adminstrative mechanisms that grind people down and wear out families and communities. This is far from over for lots of people.
Forgiveness remains difficult, complicated, risky, and profoundly beautiful.