A blog post from Marina Cantacuzino brought The Forgiveness Project to my attention today for the first time, and permitted me to hear the thoughts of people like Desmond Tutu and others who have both been touched by unimaginable hatred and freed from a destructive cycle of bitterness through forgiveness and grace.

The following paragraph from Marina struck a strong chord with me:

The year 2003 saw the invasion of Iraq; the bellicose language of retribution voiced by our politicians and reflected in the media disturbed me. I needed to do something different, to give a voice to people who weren’t being heard — victims of terrorism who had made friends with the terrorists, mothers who had forgiven their child’s killer, survivors of violence who had not tried to get even. These were stories that weren’t being told. We also interviewed and photographed those who had harmed others but who now sought more peaceful ways to effect change. In a world of tit-for-tat killings, attacks and unbreakable cycles of violence, we sought to draw a line under the dogma of vengeance.

These thoughts from Desmond Tutu were also personally powerful:

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.

However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.

I’ve been contemplating a post for several months now that addresses the troubling ethnnocentrism and intolerance for others who are different which is reflected in some songs popular on the radio now, and in bumper stickers we see from time to time here in Oklahoma. I believe in education as well as other contexts of our lives, we need to be championing the values of mutual respect, love, forgiveness and grace. Recently seeing the movie “Amazing Grace” at the theater reminded me of how important it is that we take stands in our own lives against things that are immoral and wrong. I put the entire concept of “hatred” and everything that goes with it in that category of things we need to stand against. This is a theme I’ve blogged about before, in “Value of life, forgiveness, the Holocaust,” “Surviving Dachau, Liberating Mauthausen” and “Hotel Rwanda.”

In many contexts, including cyberbullying as well as international politics, we need to listen to more voices speaking of forgiveness and grace instead of those advocating escalating cycles of violence and revenge. There are times for self-defense and justified responses to acts of aggression, but often the voices clamoring for more violence seem to overtake those calling for other alternatives.

Genocide and slavery are sadly not purely concepts of history, and the destructive, long-lasting influences of murderers, abusers, and many others is depressing to witness and consider. The Forgiveness Project is a laudible effort making tangible the ideals of grace and forgiveness, and permitting anyone with a connection to the Internet to personally encounter the stories of those who have been transformed by the power of a better “f-word” – forgiveness.

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3 Responses to Choosing forgiveness and grace over hate and revenge

  1. Rob Jacklin says:

    How incredible it was to see the title of this blog entry come across my aggregator…Grace…Fogiveness….now that’s not something I’m used to reading in my rss headlines. How refreshing. It is so easy to separate Good Friday and Easter from our professional lives (I know some teachers have to do that), but this is where they go so well together.

    This is where being a parochial school teacher is to my advantage 🙂 We can put cyberbullying, inappropriate blog posts, virtual threats and there impact on people into another context

    What a timely topic. It shows that the problems of the world don’t go just because they are digital. Forgiveness in cyberspace is needed just as much as it is in real life. How about that for a blog title: Cyber-Forgiveness?

    Thanks for the great work and for the link to the Forgiveness project. I can use that in my classes next Monday!

    Would still like to do a Skypecast on religious education and the internet. Let me know when you have some free moments

    Rob

  2. In South Africa we have become masters in the art of asking for and granting forgiveness. So many people were wronged in the past and have graciously forgiven those who wronged them. Likewise, many proud, privileged people were treating their fellow humans with little dignity, at times with cruelty, and had to humble themselves to beg for forgiveness.

    This took place on a personal level, and through the Peace and Reconciliation process, was often done in public.

    However, there is also another process of forgiveness taking place: on a group level. Whereas individuals might not have wronged others, there is still the element of group accountability. While there may not be a formal asking and granting of forgiveness, actions of restitution, reconstruction and equalisation are implied forms of asking for forgiveness.

    Among the many efforts in this regard is the Khanya project, where technology is made available (by the previous “haves”) to the the millions who do not have. It is a privilege to be involved in a such a noble project, with no profit motive, to level the playing field. A visit to http://www.khanya.co.za will give you more information on how the lives of more than half a millon previously disadvantaged children have been affected, by a group of about one hundred people who are seeking to right the wrongs of the past.

  3. […] In reviewing my Akismet suspected spam messages this evening I caught several comments that were incorrectly held in my moderation queue– most notable among them were South African educator Kobus van Wyk’s comment to my post “Choosing forgiveness and grace over hate and revenge” about the processes of reconciliation in South Africa including the Khanya project, and Scott McCleod’s reference on my post “MySpace defamation suit highlights important issues” to his post “Are principals ‘public figures?’” […]

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