*** This is my final paper for my College Writing I class at Kent State-Tusc
What does it mean to forgive? The dictionary says it means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw or mistake. It sounds so simple when it’s explained like that but, in truth, it’s really not. Forgiveness is complex and sometimes difficult step that some find nearly impossible. While it is difficult it can also be a rewarding and healing part of life.
When I think of forgiveness the first person that comes to my mind is Nelson Mandela, to me he embodies the word. A man who was jailed for fighting against apartheid was able to forgive the government that imprisoned him and continue his fight by becoming President of South Africa. He strived to help heal his country from years of racism and violence by teaching his people to heal by forgiveness. He said, “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”
For Mandela forgiving those who wrong him and other blacks in South Africa was the way to heal and come together as one country. While it was thought that, “Wait until a black-led government takes over. Then these blacks who have suffered so grievously in the past will engage in the most fearful orgy of revenge and retribution against the whites.”(Tutu) While I’m sure there were bumps along the road, revenge was not the case for South Africa. Mandela led his people by example and I think they are better for it.
Another lesson in forgiveness is taught to us by the Amish. For those of us who grew up in this area we might take the Amish and Amish country for granted and fail to recognize some of the beauty of simplicity this culture shows us. In October of 2006 a man walked into a one room Amish school house and shot and killed 5 young girls before taking his own life. The common reaction from the victims family’s would be anger and grief, and for some even revenge, but not from these Amish families. Almost immediately a member of the Amish community went to comfort the widow of the shooter and off their support. Many from their community also attended his funeral.
Just as Nelson Mandela did, the Amish used forgiveness as a way to heal. While being interviewed, one Amish man said, “The acid of hate destroys the container that holds it.”(Blake) This community knows that keeping anger and grief in your heart destroys a person, and they strive to stop that. These people are not super human in the sense that they aren’t immune to the pain or angry they just taught to deal in a different way.
These two drastically different cultures have the common thread of forgiveness and should be a lesson to all of us as human beings. So, why is it so difficult for the rest of us to forgive each other for small things when these two groups have been able to forgive others for truly horrific crimes against each other? How can we learn from others and achieve this gift of letting go? How can we grow from their examples?
To me, these are all hard questions that don’t really have a right or wrong answer and differ greatly from person to person. For my own life I have found that forgiveness is sometimes the most difficult part of my healing process. I have a tendency to hold on to the things that have been done to me almost as way of preventing myself from moving on and healing. Even as an adult I’m still learning that forgiveness is an art form and a process that is not always easy.
However I and the rest of the world can learn from the examples set by Mr. Mandela and the Amish community and strive to more like them. I believe that if we all took the examples set forth by these strong people I think that we would live in a better world. While forgiveness can be hard work and sometimes can be a difficult goal to achieve I feel it’s good for the heart and the soul and we all can benefit from its power.
Biography, nelsonmandela.org, Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory, 2012, Web, April 28, 2012
Thinkexist.com, Nelson Mandela quotes
Tutu, Desmond. “Let South Africa show the World how to Forgive.” Knowledge of Reality. Issue 19, 1996-2006, Web, April 28, 2012
Blake, John. “’The Amish Way’ to forgiveness.” Religion.blogs.cnn.com, CNN.com, Web, September 15,2010, April 28, 2012