Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forgiving Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff, the mastermind behind one of the greatest financial frauds has been given the maximum sentence allowed for what many are saying is an extremely evil crime. People cheered and so many people are suffering because of his actions. So why am I writing about forgiveness - something which is probably the furthest thing from peoples minds. The reason - I do not want to see any more suffering. Yes, Bernard Madoff needs to pay for his crime and he is. The rest of his life will be in a jail cell. Many victims also feel that they have a jail sentence when they have to stand on line with food stamps feeling as though they will never be able to enjoy life again.

What is overlooked is that when we hold hatred and anger in our hearts that exacts a price on us. What cannot been seen by those who are victimized is that wanting an eye for an eye only means more blindness. Madoff cannot give those he stole from their money back and restore their hopes and dreams. It is now up to the victims to start a new day. It is up to them if they want to move on to more hopefulness or hold on to anger and regret. Yes, the path to forgiveness and hope is a much harder path to take even when Madoff has gotten the sentence he deserves. And yes, his sentence does not pay the bills or put food on the table. It is easier to get angry about these things but think about this. Do you want to be a victim twice over? Are you still willing to give Bernie Madoff power to hurt you while he is sitting in his jail cell? Yes, people have made a huge mistake for trusting Madoff and he is in prison now. Nothing more can be done. His freedom and luxurious life has been taken away. Madoff is being held accountable for his actions.

When we think of forgiveness we think of letting someone off the hook. This is not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is about healing ourselves so we can have peace of mind. It doesn't come easy yet the gift of forgiveness is not for the perpetrator but for the victim. Pragmatically forgiveness is an act of self-interest. So many times people are afraid to forgive because they do think of forgiveness as letting a person off the hook. We all need to recognize that by focusing on our anger we are inflicting more on ourselves, our bodies, our souls, our relationships - everything that is important to us. That too is a very hefty price for our hatred towards Madoff. Our anger and hatred will slowly kill us. Our self-interest comes in when the victim realizes that the best thing to do is to let go of all the pain and anger and embrace life again. Our greatest revenge is to live life well again.

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