A few days back, I was reminded of an incident which happened in my first job. As an HR representative for more than 4000 employees, the volume of mails and calls that I would get was mind-boggling. After a period of a weeklong vacation followed by a weeklong offsite meeting and then some hectic travel schedule I was left with thousands of mails in my inbox to clear. In the midst of all this I skipped checking one very important mail which I shouldn’t have missed at any cost. This was a serious miss from my end. No matter what justification I gave, it wasn’t enough. I had a discussion with my boss and was expecting to get a call from my super-boss: the HR head for our region. The dreadful call finally came. I accepted the call nervously, my fingers almost shivering. I sheepishly said, “Hello” expecting to be scolded from the other end, expecting to hear a barrage of chosen words from my super-boss. But what happened was just the opposite. He spoke to me very calmly, said he understood what happened, reiterated that he trusted me and what I was capable of, asked me to learn from the mistake and get back on track. When the call ended I was dumbstruck. He had all authority, power, reason, right to penalize me for the mistake, but he chose to forgive. My respect for him just shot through the roof and I would never forget this incident ever in my life to come.
Let me pause and ask you a question. Have you ever made a mistake in your life? I’m sure you have and so have I. Not one or five or ten, but many!! A few days back, during the sermon a Priest in our parish said, “All of us humans have faults, all of are weak, all of us are vulnerable, all of us make mistakes.” So true. And what do we do when we realize that we made a mistake? We would want to correct it, we expect to be forgiven and given another chance. But do we do same – forgive and give another chance - when somebody else had made the mistake? Most often not!
I recently came across a video which shook me and challenged me! It was about the most prolific serial killer in US - Gary Ridgway. Well, what he did can’t be termed a mistake. He has been convicted of killing 49 woman in a timespan of almost two decades. He, however, confessed murdering at least 71! After being sentenced to 48 life sentences without any parole, the judge asked the relatives of the victims to come and share their story in front of the whole court. These would be the last memories Gary would have before being led into prison for the rest of his life. The below video shows a glimpse of that. I request you to have a look at it.
Woah! I was left speechless, surprised to see, how can someone, who has lost probably the most important person in his life, forgive such a remorseless, hardened criminal!! But then, that’s we are called to do. We are forgiven so that we can forgive! We all know if God starts keeping a record of all the wrongs that we do and not forgive us - where will we be!!
Right now, we may not come across a serial killer to forgive (I pray that we never do in our lifetime); but we know that there are many whom we need to forgive and reconcile with. It may be our family members, our friends, our office colleagues, our boss, our Parish priests, our teachers, our ministry team members....... We can either chose to be angry, retaliate, hold grudge against them, hate them, talk ill about them, curse and condemn them or we can choose to forgive them and be at peace with them and ourselves. Our Lord asks us to do the latter.
“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31, 32.
Let’s take these words to heart and take genuine efforts to forgive others. Whoever he or she is, whatever he or she has done, even if it’s entirely their fault, let’s pray for them, forgive them, reconcile with them, love them!
Someone said, "Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself." I think it goes beyond 'yourself' and touches the heart of the one being forgiven! The power of forgiveness heals both: the forgiven and the forgiver! Don’t you want to experience it?