October 10 & October 17, 2021 – both cohorts
Every pillar of Forgiveness starts with the proposal that forgiveness is not a reaction, it starts in the knowledge that in this imperfect world, we may need to take steps, ourselves, perhaps even alone, to make this world a better place. A mindset that goes to what needs to be put right, remedied, to safeguard the future, to update our perceptions; knowing that we are all still developing in our humanity, that we are not finished or complete, that there is much still to learn.
What do we mean by remedy? Our life is filled with natural remedies – sleep, light, music, a warm smile, or a hug at the right time is remedial and can be the start of a healing process. A new day, a clean slate, the possibility of a fresh start… Forgiveness… Five kinds spring to mind:
1 Extending the remedial qualities of inner healing and inner development
Studies have shown that forgiveness is inherently remedial; it reduces blood pressure, lowers the risk of hospitalisation, improves tissue repair. It catalyses and extends natural properties, resident within our bodies, to repair, restore well-being, to learn to improve the world within and, from there, the world without.
2 Taking small real steps to improving lives
We have, within us, natural remedial qualities and values; found in the desire to make something right, to fix something broken, to water a dry plant, to soothe and offer comfort when someone is in distress; to help or remove obstacles; to right wrongs; to protect others from harm; harm is prevented to create something better, stronger, healthier for the future. A parent who childproofs a home to help a toddler learning to walk or safely explore without falling downstairs or getting into a cleaning supplies closet.
3 Giving time, circumstances the settings and space needed
Everything requires its time, has its pace and learning, and therefore developing the quality of patience in oneself could foster a deeper understanding of others and prevent outbursts of anger or desire for revenge.
4 Where many small steps make a difference
El Sistema -Venezuela – Music education project for children. El Sistema – provides cost-free classical music education and instruments to thousands of children ages 2 – 18 in Venezuela since 1975, particularly geared to those families in poverty living in slums. José Antonio Abreu established the initiative: he believed that exposure, engagement in classical music, access to the right settings, experiences, opportunities would help children walled in by poverty, to be set free, transformed and, with their release, bring fresh hope to their own communities. The results were astounding: it created a better future for many and it continues to impact country after country.
5 Lady Justice
We all understand justice and fairness to be essential: to protect rights; to prevent harm; to deliver accountability, atonement, or punishment for a crime committed; to facilitate closure and restoration where damage has been done. We expect decency to be protected; that those who did wrong eventually experience remorse, regret and learn to not do wrong again.
We expect justice to be a remedy and, often, it is. Indeed often, when there is a discussion about forgiveness, a belief is encountered that forgiveness may undermine justice.
Is it valid to seek justice and then offer forgiveness to the perpetrator? Many consider that this is not valid. Yet Eva Kor’s story and those of many others suggests that even when justice has been served, there is a place for forgiveness. Their stories are both moving and righteous- are they valid for us all? Do both justice and forgiveness have a place?
Consider then the instance where the perpetrator is identified, charged and, as sometimes happens, the outcome was not satisfactory to the victim or their family – where now do they find peace and closure? Sometimes there may be no possibility for justice to be served; the perpetrators may not be caught or put on trial; no one is held accountable; nobody is penalized, reprimanded for wrongs done – where then do the victims find remedy? We are raised with the assumption that justice is served, remedy is delivered when the perpetrator is assigned punishment: a prison sentence, or something else that costs the perpetrator dearly. Does that always bring remedy to the victim, the victim’s family? Does it actually straighten out the perpetrator? Can justice offer restoration of dignity or wholeness?
What happens when we feel we have done wrong, and we then punish ourselves, does that bring remedy? Can the limbic desire for retribution, punishment, or revenge be replaced by rising to the proposition of our humanness, reaching for understanding, mercy, and love, living by our inner values and actively working to help improve matters in this world?
Is forgiveness valid whether or not justice has been served? Within the pain of the hurt, have we reflected on this enough, do we have the desire to act from our inner values, and help to bring change both within us and in the world?
Improving lives, one person at a time
Forgiveness is a transformative, remedial balm, when out of impossible heartbreak, loss, grief, and trauma, something extraordinary and new happens in us which becomes remedial into life itself in preventing the cause or source of the pain. One of the remarkable examples was presented in the story of Azim Khamisa and Plez Felix
The tragic murder of Tarique, Azim Khamisa’s 21-year-old son, by Ples Felix’s 14-year-old grandson Tony, a gang member challenged by the gang leader to shoot Tarique for no reason, drove Azim to seek the source and reason that causes young people to join gangs in the first place, where such acts were committed. Over time, Plez Felix joined in that endeavor and their relationship grew into a deep friendship out of the great grief of both men. Each had gone through the transformative journey of Forgiveness and healing, through the hallways of understanding and compassion towards each other and Tony – who was serving a 25-year sentence for committing the murder. In the understanding that revenge, anger, or hatred would not bring the murdered son back to his family or lessen the pain of the loss, they could divert their energies to creating a more forgiving, understanding, and compassionate world, starting with children and youth.
They together established the Tarique Khamisa Foundation, “We believe that in every crime there is an opportunity to improve society by learning how to prevent that crime from happening again.” The foundation is committed to “stopping children from killing other children.
On all five continents, as the rule of law failed us, groups of activists have – in the face of violence, discrimination, segregation, oppression, and genocide – focused on their purpose, acted with humanity, held the line with love; never faltering, never retaliating even when beaten, hurt, and arrested. They endured and held firm in the understanding that revenge, punishment, violence and hatred can only be overcome by higher values of compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and love; balancing remedies that provide an opportunity for a very different future.