One of the most provocative descriptions of forgiveness that I have come across is "to give for"—to give some actual, definite good in return for the seeming harm given. I had the opportunity to witness such forgiveness by a young woman named Melissa.
A drunk driver crashed into Melissa's car and mangled her legs. In a flash, her promising career as a supermodel ended. The case went to trial, and the driver was found guilty. Then the driver's sentencing day arrived. Melissa was quite popular, and many people in the courtroom that day came up with a plan of retribution and revenge against the person who caused this tragic event in Melissa's life.
On the human level, it would have been understandable if Melissa harbored resentment and anger toward the man who snuffed out her dream to be a supermodel. But something surprising and unexpected took place—at least to most of the people in the courtroom that day.
Melissa pleaded with the judge not to send the man to jail. She said to the judge, “He didn’t do it on purpose.”
Melissa then turned to the man who caused her to have her legs amputated and live a life relegated to a wheelchair and said to him, “I don’t hate you. I’m mad at alcohol. But I don't hate you."
The man began to cry. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Melissa then beckoned him to her wheelchair. He came close to her, and Melissa reached up to the man, handed him a Kleenex, hugged him, and said to him, "I forgive you." And they embraced.
Melissa's actions distressed some of the people who were there with their desire for retribution and revenge. Ultimately, the judge did not go along with her plea for leniency. The man was sentenced to jail as requested by the prosecution. The judge said the man had to be held accountable for his actions. In that regard, it was probably the right decision.
But the essential truth is that Melissa could see this man as he truly is—a child of God. Because she was able to see him rightly, she was free.
Forgiveness, among other things, is the ability to no longer carry an experience into the present moment. Melissa could let go of that experience, as horrendous as it was, and live in the here and now. No doubt, she went through a process to get to the point where she could distinguish between what the man did and the truth about him.
Melissa aligned her mind and soul with love—the truth of her being.
Sometimes in our lives, we will be faced with the choice to answer a call for forgiveness. In some instances, it may be to forgive ourselves; other times, it may be a call to forgive others, institutions, or groups we perceive to have done something to or against us—to give some good in return for actual or perceived harm.
We can stop carrying the baggage of an experience and begin anew. As we do, we express our true, authentic, and strong selves. And like Melissa, we will be free.
Peace and Blessings,