Archive for September, 2013

Mother Forgives Drunken Driver Who Killed Her Son, Chattanooga, TN – Even before her 25-year-old son died from horrendous auto crash injuries, Tiki Finlayson had already decided to forgive the wrong-way drunken driver who killed him.

That was what she felt like God needed her to do, to make her son’s death mean something. She said forgiving the woman driver was almost an impulse.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” she said. “Holding anything against her doesn’t change the fact that Kevin isn’t here. I chose to take control.”

Finlayson met Latisa Stephens, the driver who killed Kevin, three days before the woman’s court sentencing. She made Stephens an offer: she would agree to push for a lower sentence if Stephens promised to dedicate part of her life to 1N3, the organization created in Kevin’s honor.

She would have to stand before crowds with Finlayson and say over and over again what she did and why she did it. Finlayson said she wanted to mentor her, to help her get her life in order. Stephens agreed. She promised to help the organization weekly.

“I forgive you,” Finlayson said. “But I want you to understand what you’ve done.” The two held each other for a long time.

Tiki Finlayson; her son, Derek Yates; and her husband, Tom Finlayson, stand in front the crushed van in which Tiki’s other son, Kevin Yates, died after being hit by a drunken driver. Tiki Finlayson uses the van in the program she founded, 1IN3, to raise awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving.

Stephens was sentenced to eight years in prison for vehicular homicide by intoxication and 6 years supervised probation.

Since then, Finlayson says she thinks of all the good that has come from losing Kevin. A man in Memphis got Kevin’s heart. His liver went to save a 72-year-old man. Both his kidneys were used, too.

And 1N3 has provided grief counseling, addiction counseling, and awareness at schools. It is named 1N3 for a sobering statistic: One in three people are affected by drunk driving. The group has taken off and now reaches people across the nation and around the globe.

Read the full story: “The loss of a son sends a family on a journey into the depths of their own hearts.”

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Shunning the Impulse to Seek Revenge

Here is a brief excerpt from an article “Mother forgives drunk driver after crash killed her son” that appeared in the July 28, 2013, edition of, the online version of the Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press. Written by Joan Garrett McClane.

Forgiveness may be trumpeted in church and on counselors’ couches but it’s not a cultural virtue. We live in a world of open grudges. We live in an angry world made more so by screaming television housewives and George Zimmerman verdicts.

Biologically, according to Fred Luskin, author of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, we are negatively biased. The human brain naturally focuses on the darkness. And when we are hurt emotionally or physically, our bodies, our brains go on guard. Our nervous system reacts. Trauma teaches lessons that are hard to forget.

Robert Enright, a forgiveness researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said few people are taught how to forgive because we are ambiguous about the value of forgiveness.

We laud figures who can overcome anger. We quote Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

We laud characters who take vengeance, too. James Bond. Harry Potter. Batman.

So if someone is going to make forgiveness a practice they have to prepare for tragedy, expect to be wronged, Enright said.

Look at the Amish. When a gunman executed five schoolchildren in Nickel Mines, Pa., in 2006 the crime scene hadn’t even been cleaned up before Amish families were sending notes of forgiveness to the killer’s family. They brought the widow food and flowers. Half of those at the killer’s burial were Amish.

These tight-knit communities emphasize a predisposition toward forgiveness and shun the impulse to seek revenge, instead believing justice to be a divine matter.

At its core, regardless of spiritual belief, people come to forgive because they come to recognize every person’s tendency to err, Enright said.

“The biggest reason that people resist [forgiveness] is the profound confusion that is in the human heart,” he said. “When people are fuming, they are zeroed in on justice. Mercy is abhorrent.”

Read the full story: “Mother forgives drunk driver after crash killed her son.”

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Helpful Forgiveness Hint

Today’s homework assignment: Do no harm.Do no harm 2 This idea has long been a part of medical ethics, taught in med schools. It applies directly to the forgiveness process. It is a beginning. By “Do no harm,” I am not suggesting that you not talk with others about this person, but I am asking if you do so that you talk in a way that does not condemn him or her…..ever again. That is the hard part of today’s homework, to commit to stopping all forms of revenge or passive aggression or any form of negativism against the one who treated you unfairly.


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My daughter who is in her 20s basically ran away from home, not literally because she is above the age, but you know what I mean. She will not talk to me and is basically shunning me. I have no clue what I did and I want her back not as a live-in child but as someone who loves and I love her. What can I do to let her know that all is forgiven?

Please think back to your daughter’s upbringing and ask yourself these questions: What happened as she was growing up that she would interpret as serious injustice against her? Did she grow up without a father, for example? Was there any behavior by others that deeply hurt her? The hurts that she experienced could go back a long way, so please take your time in sorting out the injustices that she faced. These injustices likely have made her resentful and her resentment may be fueling the “running away.” If you can acknowledge the injustices and her hurts directly to her (even in a letter or email) this will be an important first step in a slow return to the giving and receiving of love between you. Please have patience as this could be a slow process. She may need to forgive you and others. You may need to forgive her for her current behavior.

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