Bestowing Forgiveness is for the Braves


Henrylito D. Tacio

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

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“Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“He cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven,” said Thomas Fuller, an English churchman and historian.

These words came into my mind while remembering the book, The Seed and the Sower, a profound human drama written by African writer Laurens Van der Post. Actually, I have never read the book but I came across about it when I had the chance of getting a copy of The Freedom of Forgiveness by Dr. David Augsburger.

Here’s the powerful story based from Dr. Augsburger’s account: “Once there were two brothers from a small South African village. The elder brother was a tall, handsome, intelligent, an excellent athlete, a good student, and a natural leader. Sent away to a private school, he quickly made a name for himself. As an admired campus leader and outstanding athlete, he was in his final year when his younger brother arrived to begin studies.”

The younger brother was the exact opposite of the older brother. “The brother was not good-looking or athletic,” Augsburger wrote. “He was a hunchback. Since his childhood, his mother had sewed paddled jackets that concealed his spinal deformity. His sensitivity to his short, curved stature had grown through the years. None of the family spoke of it in respect for his shamed feelings. Yet, the boy had one great gift. He had a magnificent voice and could sing gloriously, like a nightingale on the veld.”

It was when this younger brother arrived that the story took its twist: “Soon after his arrival at the private school, the student held initiation ceremonials, which consisted of some public humiliation to extract proof of courage. Often one student would be singled out to be especially hounded as a kind of scapegoat. On the eve of the initiation, the student body in a cruel mob action ganged up on the younger brother, carried him off to the water tank, and demanded that he sing. When he sang so frighteningly beautiful in his fear, they became all the more abusive, and tore off his shirt to reveal his never-before-seen hunchback to public ridicule.”

Did the older brother help? No, he didn’t: “The older brother was aware of what was happening; he could have gone and faced the sadistic mob. A word from him would have put a stop to the whole tragic scene. As a leader, he could have acknowledged the strange boy as his brother, but instead he busied himself in his work in the laboratory while the mob raged outside.

“The younger brother survived physically, but his spirit was crushed. He withdrew into himself. He never sang again. At the end of the term, he returned to the family farm. Keeping to himself, he lived a lonely, reclusive life.

Meanwhile, “the older brother rose to successful prominence in the capital, and when World War II came was an officer stationed in Palestine. One night, recovering from an injury, he lay under the stars and in a dream saw himself as Judas in the circle of disciples around Jesus Christ. ‘I am Judas; I had a brother once, and I betrayed him,’ he said. ‘Go to your brother,’ Christ replied.

“The journey from Palestine was incredibly difficult. He arrived unannounced and found his brother watering plants in the parched garden. It was a time of long drought. He looked into his younger brother’s dark eyes, still imprisoned in the painful past. The moment of time arrested was visible in his face as well as in his twisted form.

“‘I’ve come all this distance to spend a few hours with you,’ he said, and then went straight to the heart of the matter of his great wrong. When he had finished, both were in tears. The first rainstorm of the year was breaking as the older brother walked back to the house and the younger brother turned off the irrigation water.

“Then, in the distance, the older brother heard the song of his younger brother in the garden, as he had not heard him sing since childhood. A song of his own writing in boyhood, but now with a new verse.”

Yes, the younger brother never retaliated at his older brother. Revenge never came into his mind. Instead he has forgiven him. Dr Augsburger wrote in his book, “Revenge not only lowers your enemy’s lowest level; what’s worse, it boomerangs. One who seeks revenge is like a fool who shoots himself in order to hit his enemy with the kick of the gun’s recoil.”

According to Dr. Augsburger, revenge is the most worthless weapon in the world. Why? “It ruins the avenger while confirming the enemy in the wrongdoing. It initiates an endless flight down the bottomless stairway of rancor, reprisals, and ruthless retaliation.”

An eye for an eye, so goes a familiar adage. Giving forgiveness to others is only for the weak. But, on the contrary, to forgive someone takes a lot of courage. If saying you’re sorry is hard, bestowing forgiveness is even harder. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

The Bible says we have to forgive 70 x 7. That means 490 times. But it does not state if that forgiveness be given to only one person; it might be the sum of all the time you have to give forgiveness.

However, biblically speaking, 7 means infinity or complete. God created the heaven and earth for six days and rested on the seventh day. There are seven days in a week and then after that another week comes. What the Bible implies is that we have to forgive people who was done wrong to us forever.

When we pray, we always ask forgiveness for the sins were have committed against God. But it is a double standard if we don’t forgive those who trespass against us. If God forgives, so do we.

Forgive and forget. It simply means that if we have forgiven someone, we have to completely erase all the wrongdoings done. Forgiveness says you have given that someone another chance to make a new beginning.

That’s always the case so. If someone who has done wrong to you in the past and commit another mistake, you always say, “I have forgiven you in the past, so how can I forgive you now?” If you say so, it means you have not completely forgiven the person. The pain is still there in your heart.

It is only by forgiving a person whole heartedly that you can move one and completely change your future. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. come in handy: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

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