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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The gift of forgiving

There's an amazing story of this woman named Betty* who had to cope with one of the greatest challenges in life: the cruel killing of her child. Her daughter, Debbie, a promising 16-year old, was found in a creek, raped and strangled, and tied up with copper-coated wire. After the initial devastation and anguish, Betty became consumed by hatred. She felt as if the police were dragging their feet on the case, and hired a private detective. After several months of intense investigation, the trail led to… Debbie's favorite English schoolteacher! In spite of Betty's discovery, however, it took the police another dreadful couple of months before the wire was tested and found to be, indeed, similar to what the teacher had. He was ultimately arrested and accused of murder, even though he claimed not to have raped and killed Debbie. He was sentenced to life in prison, and Betty could finally start coping with her loss.

Six years after mourning Debbie's death, Betty started to work seriously toward healing herself by granting forgiveness to the killer. It became clear to her that her life was going on, and that she might as well try to make the best of it. She made a bold decision, and visited the alleged murderer in prison to tell him about her forgiveness. Not everyone who knew Debbie felt this way, which is, of course, understandable. It takes tremendous greatness and self-transcendence to forgive some of the things that happen in our lives. Betty was able to work up forgiveness toward the person who caused her one of the worst pains a human being can endure. There is no guarantee we would be able to do the same if we were in her shoes.

Nonetheless, Betty's decision is one we can learn from, because we often hold grudges for much smaller things than the challenge she faced. Hate, fear, anger, regret, shame: these are all negative emotions that withhold us from bringing out the best in ourselves. If we manage to forgive – others as well as ourselves – we can move on with our lives: wiser and more serene. Forgiving is a great gift, mainly to ourselves. Oftentimes the object of our negative emotions is not even aware of how we feel. Once we forgive, we free ourselves from an enormous burden, and enable ourselves to breathe again, and we finally rediscover how precious it is to love, laugh, and live.

* Adopted from "Betty's Story: a Mother's forgiveness" - http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=619021&page=1

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