When South African hostage Pierre Korkie was killed by a militant during an attempted rescue operation in Yemen, his wife, Yolande said with tearful dignity, “We choose to let it go”.
Her reason was simple…accusations will not bring back her husband.
In 1995, Eva Kor forgave all those who had mercilessly treated her sister and herself as guinea pigs for human biological experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp. For over 50 years, her horrifying ordeal had haunted her despite her survival.
Eva Kor explains her decision to forgive in simple yet wise words,
“Forgiveness is the best revenge. If you do not like it, you can take back your pain”
After the terrible reign of apartheid in South Africa, when the trauma of hardship and horror still was a profound memory, it was one person who showed a nation that it’s future depended on forgiveness – Nelson Mandela.
Mandela had spent 27 precious years of his life in jail for striving to end the white minority rule and creating a nation were all can live with dignity and respect.
He took the term “Forgiveness” to new heights when he invited State Prosecutor, Percy Yutar for dinner in 1995. In 1963, Yutar had convicted Mandela for sabotage and sentenced him to life imprisonment and rigorous labour.
Mandela’s reason was simple – Yutar was merely doing his job.
What is it that makes the ordeals of these three individuals so inspiring? It takes an awful lot of courage to express pain. It takes even more guts to stop continuing the role of a victim and put a halt to the unconscious cycle of the blame game. To forgive and focus on the present and joy and make the decision to let go is a conscious process that takes effort and the refusal to allow the past to hurt.
Yolande’s trauma would have been the long and uncertain wait for her husband. A waiting that culminated when she was forced to face the reality that he was not ever coming back. His merciless killing by the militants is enough to create a lifelong gnawing and gut wrenching living nightmare.
Eva’s ordeal would have been be a living hell. A hell that would have continued after the end of the ordeal. A trauma from the scars that would have continued to haunt her of the years gone by.
The emotional and physical scars she would have experienced for years in the concentration camp would have too many to count – her experiences, unbelievably inhuman and heart wrenching. All of it, ironically, in the name of science.
Nelson Mandela had all the reasons to continue his life after spending 27 years in jail filled with bitterness, but wisdom had prevailed. As the first black President of South Africa, he had understood that to lead a traumatized and divided country to become unified, it would have to be by setting an example. To live in harmony, one will not only need to put aside differences but forgive.
Each of them understood from their experience, their unique heartache and unspeakable sorrow that their continued anger towards the pain perpetrator would only continue to hurt them and hurt them alone.
What are the possible personal benefits in forgiving (to the extent possible)?
Forgiveness enables one to feel free to enjoy positive energy , instead of have it affected through the anger and resentment of the past. It is about being determined to make the make the best of your life, no matter what.
There may be many moments in your life where you consider your grudge is caused by your righteous belief in being right in your thinking. Holding on to it would only allow it affect you further and make you more unhappy.
It is also a realization that your psychological and emotional wounds are preventing you from blooming and becoming what you can be.
Breaking free from the grudges you hold will also enable you to become effectively resourceful in starting your life afresh.
Like in the case of Franscisco Carrillo, who at the age of 16, went to prison wrongly convicted of killing Donald Sarpy in a drive by shooting. 20 years later, he was freed from prison. He was acquitted when the authorities admitted that they had goofed up on the testimony of a witness.
Carrillo immediate response to the taste of freedom after so many years was poignant.
“It’s been a long time coming but I’m happy I’m here” , he’s known to have said with a smile.
The journey of life is not too different from a journey that you may make in life. The more “luggage” we carry with us, the less comfort we experience. And in the midst of the challenge of carrying around this “luggage”, we sadly forget to “live” the way we are meant to.
And the irony of the act of forgiveness is that while you may choose to consider that the person you forgive is the person who wronged you, you are merely releasing an imprisoned person to freedom.
An embittered and haunted prisoner who had forgotten to truly enjoy and rejoice life – a prisoner who is none other than you.