If forgiveness is the right thing to do, why is it so difficult?
In most of the world’s major religions, forgiveness – seeking it and giving it – is a core belief.
And yet, it seems that it is more often preached than practiced.
So much so, in fact, that instances of genuine forgiveness for offenses that deeply wound make headlines.
It happened just last Sunday, when Gentry and Hadley Eddings celebrated the brief lives of their two boys, Dobbs, 2, and Reed, 2 days. They were both casualties of a Memorial Day traffic accident. Authorities have charged a 28-year-old truck driver with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle and failure to reduce speed.
“We have, in our hearts, forgiven the man who did this,” Gentry said at an emotional service at Charlotte’s Forest Hill Church. “It was not the easiest thing to do, but in some ways it was because we know – Hadley and I – that Jesus Christ has forgiven us our debt. ... So in some ways, it was very easy to forgive a man who made an accident.”
His words echoed that famous proverb from 18th century English poet Alexander Pope: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Scholars interpret Pope’s meaning this way: we all commit sins and make mistakes, so we should all aspire to follow God’s example of showing mercy and forgiving sinners.
The poet was right: Real forgiveness seems to require a touch of the divine.
And when we see it, we are moved mightily, as if we were getting a glimpse of the face of God.
I can still remember the public fascination when Pope John Paul II, nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet in St. Peter’s Square in 1981, later visited – and forgave – his attacker in prison.
The story of World War II POW Louie Zamperini – whose Christian conversion led him to forgive the Japanese soldiers who brutalized him – kept “Unbroken” on best-seller lists for years.
And this week, Forest Hill Church got calls from People magazine and other national media. Their interest: The Charlotte couple’s profession of forgiveness.
When it comes to forgiveness, we all seem to agree that it’s the right thing to do. And that it’s hard.
Why so difficult?