This weekend I stumbled upon a few examples of unbelievable, superhuman forgiveness. I wrote an article a couple months ago about how it’s so difficult to forgive yourself, but these stories pushed the limits of what it means to forgive.
We all know that living with a grudge or with anger is unhealthy. It’s like a disease that eats away at you from the inside. The only medicine for this disease is to forgive and move on. It’s easier said than done. But when you think about what is really important in life, chances are the resentment and anger you carry around are a waste of your time and energy. Negativity is a powerful magnet for more negativity. Forgiveness breaks that cycle.
The first example is an article I read was about a victim in the post-9/11 aftermath in the US. Bangladeshi immigrant Rais Bhuiyan was shot in the face by someone looking to avenge the attacks. He is now blind in one eye and spent years recovering from the attack that almost took his life.
The gunman, Mark Stroman, is on death row in Texas. His execution is imminent, but Mark has a surprising cheerleader leading the cause for clemency – Rais Bhuiyan. Rais said that he has had a lot of time to grow spiritually, and is willing to do everything to prevent the loss of another human life.
Rais has won support from people all over the world, and even from some of the relatives of two other South Asian victims Mark Stroman did kill. Rais is collecting signatures and doing whatever he can to persuade the execution capital of the U.S. to spare Mark’s life. Clemency in such a case is without precedent.
It is hard to imagine being able to forgive someone who commits such a heinous crime against you purely on the basis of misidentified race. It is even harder to imagine taking such an active role to save this person’s life. It doesn’t fit with the traditional view of what “justice” is. To me, this is superhuman.
**Update on July 19th, 2011** See the video below regarding this case
Next, while going for a walk in the (finally) warm Danish weather, I listened to this Ted Talk on my MP3 player. It features Aicha el-Wafi, mother of 9/11 “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui, and Phyllis Rodriguez, mother of a 9/11 victim. Phyllis was not vengeful after the attacks and she spoke out publicly against the government pursuing the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui. As a result of speaking out, and through contact with human rights organizations, she was brought together with other 9/11 families and had the opportunity to meet Aicha el-Wafi.
In this exchange, Phyllis discovered a woman who had lived a life very different from her own, and one that was unimaginably difficult. They became friends and share a special connection. After the meeting, Phyllis said “It’s all about being afraid of the other, but making that step and then realizing ‘hey, this wasn’t so hard. Who else can I meet that I don’t know or that I’m so different from?'” Aicha concludes the Ted Talk by saying “I wanted to say that we have to try to know other people, “the other.” You have to be generous and your heart must be generous, your mind must be generous, you must be tolerant, you have to fight against violence, and I hope that someday we’ll all live together in peace and respect each other.”
Here is the video of the talk:
Two women, joined by tragedy, each with unimaginable pain and suffering, yet no hard feelings or hatred or malice. Superhuman.
The last example I have is from a movie I recently saw. It is the story of the 2006 Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania. The movie is a true account of the story and really shows how difficult it was for the families of the victims and for the community to deal with the tragedy according to their faith and traditions despite the pain and anguish.
In the end, a beautiful story of forgiveness unfolds leaving the movie watcher scratching his or her head wondering how such compassion and strength can possibly exist. Superhuman.
These are all nice examples, but these examples probably don’t resemble the struggles happening in your own life right now. At least I hope there is no resemblance! Nevertheless, these stories are extremely inspirational. The soul searching required to find forgiveness deep within their hearts shows that against all odds forgiveness can be found – and that this forgiveness liberates one’s heart from all the darkness and negativity that otherwise fills the void.