There's a quote circulating on Facebook right now. I didn't pay attention to which of my friends shared it but I've seen it pop up several times now. It discusses how this gentleman doesn't want to know anything about the men who carried out the bombing last Monday, how he hates them and doesn't care about anything having to do with them.
I think his point is that we should be focusing on those who helped. I get that, and I agree.
But I can't agree that we shouldn't learn anything about these men. I think that learning and understanding is part of forgiving. I think that if we adamantly insist on ignorance then we are condemning ourselves.
Our nation needs to heal. Part of the healing process is forgiveness.
Not too long ago, someone who I love very deeply hurt me very badly. I won't go into details of how or why, but it has led to an estrangement for awhile. For a long time, I can honestly say that I hated her. I still struggle to be around this person, and on the rare occasion that we are in the same place, it is tense.
But I forgive her. It took time. It took me stepping back to look at the situation from her point of view. I had to understand where she was coming from, and you know, I can understand why she did what she did. I still don't like it, and I won't say that I would've done the same. I doubt our relationship will ever go back to what it once was. I don't love that, but I understand. I understand that she was hurting as much as I was. The consequences of what happened hurt as much as what happened, but you know, sometimes you just have to push through it.
I think about these two men who hurt our nation. When the names were released, someone also posted information from facebook accounts. Some of the status updates talked about how they felt that Americans hated them. They were clearly hurting. Whether the hate that they felt was directed to them was real or not, it was real to them.
Now, please don't misunderstand me and think that I am asking for their crimes to be excused. I'm not. I fully support the full weight of the consequences being doled out. Everybody hurts, and no one should deal with that hurt by hurting others. But on some level, we all do.
My message is this: don't justify their hate by becoming who they hated. These men hated Americans because they felt that Americans hated them. Don't make that true.
Instead, learn from it. Are we responsible for what happened a week ago? Absolutely not. But we are responsible when we choose ignorance instead of understanding. When we consciously make the choice- and encourage others to do the same- we are spreading the pain and hurt that drives people to cause pain and hurt for others. Understanding does not equal condoning or agreeing. It simply means an acknowledgement of someone else's reality. This is not bad.
I applaud the doctors, nurses, bystanders, and runners who all stepped up to help. I do believe that we should honor them as heroes, and that we should focus on what they did to spread kindness in a desperate situation. But in our peripheral should be a desire to forgive those who hurt us. We should be more aware of those who may be hurting and we should find the compassion, no matter how far we have to dig, to rise above the natural inclinations we feel to condemn them. It may not be loving them, but it can easily be not hating them.
There are more than three sets of parents who have broken hearts this week. There is a fourth set- who not only grieves for lost children, but also feels the gravity of the pain those children have caused a nation.
It is easy to want forgiveness when we are the ones asking for it. It is hard to want forgiveness when we are the ones asked to give it. Our character is what emerges when hard things are
required. Do not forgive because it will heal the pain that those men were experiencing. Forgive because it will help to heal the pain that we are experiencing.
Our options as a nation are limited. We no longer need doctors at the blast site. The Red Cross had enough blood donations to cover the injuries. The healing that needs to happen now- the part that those of us miles away from Boston can do- is internal and personal and doesn't need to be directed at the men who placed the explosives, or even the victims. It begins in our homes, in our communities and with those around us, and does not have to be directly related to Boston at all. It starts by making a conscious choice to love and if we can't love, to simply not hate.
“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
― Corrie ten Boom
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