It's amazing what can happen if you just put your arm around somebody.
- Julia Roberts
I was just reading over some inspiring quotes for our very popular Up Side feature in Guideposts magazine when I came across one from a reader: “Forgiveness is the greatest expression of love.”
Immediately I thought of an interview I saw this morning on the Web with the mother of one of the three high school students killed this week in Chardon, Ohio, in another senseless school shooting spree.
Phyllis Ferguson was asked by a reporter what she would say to the 17-year-old boy who shot her son, Demetrius, apparently at random in the Chardon High School cafeteria. She replied, “I would tell him I forgive him.” Everything else, she said, was in God’s hands.
Awe and shame. Those were the reactions I had to Phyllis’s response to the reporter’s question. Awe that she can even utter the word forgiveness when she must be feeling the deepest pain a person can know, and shame at what I realize would be an almost impossible thing for me to feel in that situation. I would be consumed with all sorts of feelings but forgiveness would not be one of them.
Yet forgiveness may be the greatest act required of us as spiritual people. And it’s the hardest, at least for me. It’s easy to say I forgive, but to really let go, to move past the anger and hurt, sometimes seems almost impossible.
It is so easy to remain prisoners of bitterness. It is the safe route in the short run. But over time, the failure to forgive can eat our souls alive. True forgiveness takes great courage, and the greater wrong, the more courage it takes to forgive it.
Lent is the season of forgiveness, the 40 days leading up to that greatest act of forgiveness, the redemption of all mankind through the suffering and death of Christ. If there is a central call to action for Christians, it is to forgive. That is the call Phyllis Ferguson is answering so courageously. I am lost in admiration for her.
The quote I started with is true. Only love makes forgiveness possible. Only love overcomes the fear and the hurt. To forgive is to love. Are you a forgiving person? Or do you struggle with it like I do? Share below. And please say a prayer for the people of Chardon, Ohio, especially the families involved in the shooting.
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of Guideposts Publications. Edward lives in New York City with two blondes—his wife, Julee, and Golden Retriever, Millie, who has been featured in his blog and popular videos. Edward loves cycling, hiking with Millie at his house in the Berkshire Hills and Wolverines that hail from Michigan.
If you need a little boost of inspiration, pick up a copy of Edward's book The Promise of Hope: How True Stories of Hope and Inspiration Saved My Life and How They Can Transform Yours.