Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it. – Mark Twain, American Humorist and Writer
Would you forgive him?
Monday, October 2, 2006, was supposed to be another normal day at the Nickel Mines Amish School’s quiet one-room school house in Pennsylvania‟s Dutch country. Charles Carl Roberts IV had different plans as he arrived with guns, plastic ties, and other supplies. On that day, five innocent little girls lost their lives at gunpoint, execution style, before the wicked cowardly killer shot himself.
Roberts wrote a note to his wife and three children, confessing he had molested two young cousins 20 years earlier and had dreams of doing it again. Also, he explained how he was mad at God for the loss of his premature daughter (Elise) in 1997. He said anytime the family would have fun he would think about Elise and what she was missing. Roberts said he would become angry and hate God more each time he thought about it.
It was an unthinkable, undeserving, and unwarranted act that took place that cold Monday morning. Of all places, a peaceful and loving community where caring and giving are so abundant. But even more unexplainable was how the Amish parents of those innocent children responded. The blood from their daughters that lay on the schoolhouse floor was barely dry as they went to the wife of Roberts with love and support.
Their quick act to forgive the killer and also help his wife would bring about questions from even the most liberal of minds. The blank check of forgiveness, written from the hearts of the victims, quickly became the primary focus of the event. It was a rare occasion of love, faith, and courage that dominated the media outlets. How could anyone ever be so willing to forgive such a heinous act? How could they be willing to support and even raise money for the killer‟s family? How could they not become so angry and hateful? Many answers are involved, from their faith to their culture. We can be assured they had plenty of love in their hearts and they knew the value of forgiveness.
The Amish people knew had they not forgiven, they themselves would experience a heart just like the hate-filled killer himself. Bitterness and anger are not discriminatory. Both will quickly fill the space of any unforgiving heart and soul. Had the killer chosen to forgive his past the Amish people could have possibly avoided the need to forgive his present. I will say that in another way. Each time we forgive our past it eliminates anyone having to forgive us in the future. The hate and anger that Roberts possessed came from his unwillingness to forgive.
The Amish people were very hurt, they were extremely saddened and did a lot of grieving. What they were not willing to do was allow the killer an endless path of torture within their souls. They understood the value of forgiveness – love. They may have lost the love from their murdered children that day, but instead of losing even more from bitterness, they chose to take the winning route. Most of us know that bitterness is bad for us, not the offender. Yet we insist on holding grudges against others. What is forgiveness? The word, forgive, in its origin means to totally give. I believe forgiveness is totally giving up our perceived right to hold a grudge against someone else.