Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Very Human Thing to Do

Someone made the statement: "To err is dysfunctional, to forgive co-dependent." Sometimes I think I operate that way – afraid to err and slow to forgive.

Of course, we’ve all heard Alexander Pope’s famous assertion that to err is human, to forgive, divine. But I don’t agree. I think that to forgive is one of the most human things we can do.

A number of years ago, Hildegard Goss-Mayr of the "International Fellowship of Reconciliation" told this true story. In the midst of tragic fighting in Lebanon in the 1970s, a Christian seminary student was walking from one village to the next when he was ambushed by an armed Druze guerrilla fighter. The Druze ordered his captive down a mountain trail where he was to be shot.

But an amazing thing happened. The seminarian, who had received military training, was able to surprise his captor and disarm him. Now, the table was turned, and it was the Druze who was ordered down the trail.

As they walked, however, the student of theology began to reflect on what was happening. Recalling the words of his scripture, "Love your enemies,” “do good to those who hate you,” “turn the other cheek," he found he could go no farther. He threw the gun into the bushes, told the Druze he was free to go and turned back up the hill.

Minutes later, he heard footsteps running behind him as he walked. "Is this the end after all?" he wondered. Perhaps the young man had retrieved his weapon and meant to finish him off. But he continued on, never glancing back, until his enemy reached him, only to grab him in an embrace and pour out thanks for sparing his life.

That was a very human thing he did – foregoing the impulse to strike back. It took a strong spirit. Yet every time we decide not to get back at somebody who hurts us, we exercise one of our greatest powers – the power to choose a better way.

Somebody else put it better than I can: “Life is too short for drama and petty things, so, kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly.” It’s one of the most powerful and human things we can do.

-- Steve Goodier

Image: flickr.com/David Chao


Rob McWilliam said...

One of my favorite quotes on this theme is: "Forgiveness means giving up any hope for a better past." It just resonated with me when I heard it.

Thanks, Steve.

Rob McWilliam

Steve Goodier said...

Wow - I like that. Thanks.