I have some experience with forgiveness. I will give no details, and the situations did not involve any kind of criminal conduct. In one case, I wrongly hurt a fellow human. Months went by. Several times I dreamed that we were on good terms again, as if nothing had happened. She spoke to me pleasantly, casually, in the dream, without any of the harsh antagonism I deserved. Then one day I realized how wrong I had been. I didn't say anything to anyone, but I repented in my heart. Then a few days later I saw her standing in a back yard. She made some remark about the birds or something. It was just like the dreams. I had repented and she had forgiven me, all without verbalizing.
The other case was the reverse. I'd had harsh feelings all summer. Then one day I let go of them. I believe there was an unspoken repentance by the other person.
I mention these experiences because repentance and forgiveness are profound aspects of Christianity and of the cultures produced by Christian peoples. I respect these ideas. And I want to respectfully suggest to you that you have missapplied them to the Marine Park Middle School students who attacked your daughters. For one thing, you were not the ones attacked, so it is not your place to offer "forgivenes."
More importantly, the "forgiveness" was done at the wrong time and in the wrong manner. The gang who attacked your daughters committed an offense against society as well as against your children. It is right and proper for society to punish those who are guilty of violent conduct. The first step in the rehabilitatation of violent offenders is for the offenders to admit their guilt and accept their punishment. Only when the punishment is complete do offenders have a right to ask the forgiveness of those they have harmed. Otherwise, "repentance" is, in most cases, an insincere charade acted out in the hope of avoiding punishment.
If the Marine Park Middle School girls had served their time and then apologized directly to your daughters, then it would be noble, Christian and psychologically healthy for your daughters to grant forgiveness if they really felt like granting it. This is a one hundred percent "victim's choice" situation. It is part of the healing process to give victims this power.
Two issues mentioned in the New York Post article ("Moms' Mercy Letter" by Philip Messing.) are somewhat bizarre. First is your suggestion that the attackers be punished by being forced to take . . . diversity training???? WHAT????? Not anger management, not how to be good citizens, but FLIPPING DIVERSITY TRAINING???? We're not talking about a few rude taunts here, a few grumblings about affirmative action, a snide joke or two on a campus radio station, we're talking about a violent assault. How is "diversity training" going to convine those predatory young girls that their conduct was terribly wrong?
Even more bizarre is your reference to Nelson Mandela as a source of moral inspiration. I could understand Jesus or any of the martyred saints or Ghandi or even Martin Luther King, Jr., but not Mandela. He was the leader of a bloody revolution.
Those bizarre facts lead me to conclude that you were pressured or manipulated into writing your letter. You didn't just happen to get together and decide to offer collective forgiveness on behalf of your daughters. You didn't just happen to pick Nelson Mandela as moral leader. You didn't just happen to decide that "diversity training" would be an appropriate punishment.
I must speak harshly at this point. Your letter was foolish. It was a completely inappropriate response to violence inflicted on your own children. You should be ashamed to have written it. There is one thing you can do to begin your own process of repentance and your own search for forgiveness. You can write up in complete detail exactly who influenced you to write that letter. What did they say to you? What do you think their motives were? If you need help in finding a publisher, feel free to contact me.
Copyright © 2006
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