Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Forgiveness and Amish Grace

Is it possible to forgive a murderer? Would you be able to forgive the person who MURDERED someone you loved very deeply? This was the subject of the movie “Amish Grace” shown on the Lifetime Movie Network. The movie is based on a true story about the Amish community who within the fabric of their beings embraced the thinking which is the scaffolding of forgiveness. This community demonstrates how difficult it is to forgive even when deeply steeped in religious beliefs forgiveness is engrained. They also demonstrate how powerful forgiveness is in the healing of the soul.

On October 2, 2006 Carl Roberts entered into a one room school house in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He lined up 11 young girls and shot them at point blank range. Roberts killed five of the girls and then killed himself. In an amazing act of courage the oldest girl, 13-year-old Marian Fisher asked Roberts to shoot her first. She hoped that she could spare the lives of the younger girls. And what was even more remarkable was that in just a few hours after the shooting an Amish neighbor went to the Roberts family to comfort them and to offer forgiveness.

A grandfather of one of the girls killed was telling the boys to forgive what had just happened as they prepared the body of one of the little girls for burial. How many of you could have done that? How many of you could have told the young boys that “We must not think evil of this man?” Yet these were the words of the grandfather. And what is even more unimaginable is that five days later the families who lost their daughters attended the funeral of the man who had killed them. They went not in anger or for retribution, but to comfort the family and let them know that all was forgiven.

The Amish learned to let go of their pain and suffering. What makes the Amish so remarkable is that they chose to see, using the words of Jerry Jampolsky, “the light instead of the lampshade” and saw the situation with spiritual sight, that although what this man did was an act of evil – inwardly, it was a cry for help. They were able to go beyond what their physical eyes were telling them and recognized that Roberts too was worthy of love. They were able to see Roberts not through the lens of anger, fear or guilt, but through the eyes of understanding and compassion.

As we struggle with our own difficulties in being able to forgive, we also open ourselves up to a benevolent force which is far more powerful than we could ever be. This creative force which is sometimes experienced as grace, is that inexplicable power which comes from something beyond ourselves. This power gives us the ability to forgive even when we feel within our hearts, forgiveness is humanly impossible. This moment of grace creates a profound interior renovation which completely changes the way we think. Instead of perceiving the situation through our judgments we see things differently, through what I call spiritual sight. When it happens, you can feel the power and presence of a higher intervention which transforms your relationships as you experience an outpouring of this inexplicable love.

This is the love which enabled the Amish to pray for everyone involved in what took place on October 2nd, not only for the innocent little girls who got killed and those still to recover, but for the killer himself. They knew that by expressing love it would bring about healing for all those concerned, whereas to take on and express the same evil as the attacker, that would only support evil and allow it to spread. The Amish learned that when we forgive we let our pain go.


Frank said...

Amazing people the Amish. Sandra Bullock may need to look a little deeper into understanding the gift of forgiveness if she ever hopes to find happiness.

Dr. Eileen Borris said...

My heart goes out to Sandra. Forgiveness is so very hard to do and can be so transformative as we have seen with the Amish.