Archive for August, 2014

I Forgive You and I Pray for You, The Patriot News, Harrisburg, PA –  The mother of 20-year-old Robert Burris, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in March 2013, has forgiven the driver of the car involved in the incident.

“I forgive you, and I pray for you,” said Shurone Carroll, Burris’ mother, at a July sentencing hearing for 19-year-old Jonathan Ramsey. After adding that she wants Ramsey to make every day count when he gets out of prison, she hugged him and shed a tear.

Hug“The court is very moved by Mrs. Carroll’s act of forgiveness,” Judge Andrew Dowling said. If something like this had happened to one of his own family members, Dowling added, “I’m not sure I could have done the same thing.”

During Ramsey’s appearance in court last month, the judge accepted the plea agreement Ramsey reached with the District Attorney’s Office, which called for 5 to 10 years in state prison on a third-degree murder charge – reduced from first-degree murder, which would have meant a life sentence.

The DA said Ramsey was an essential and critical witness in reaching a conviction of the drive-by shooter, Justin Clark. According to testimony at that trial, Ramsey drove Clark to 14th and Vernon streets in Harrisburg after they saw Clark’s intended target, Bennie Chisolm, with a group of people. Clark fired about 11 shots at Chisolm, missing him, but striking Burris fatally in the back of the head.

Just before receiving his sentence, Ramsey apologized to the victim’s family, and to his own family, for putting them through the situation. He thanked Burris’s mother for her forgiveness, and said, “She forgave me, so I think God will forgive me, too.”

Read the full story:  “‘I forgive you,’ mother of 20-year-old slain in Harrisburg drive-by shooting tells driver”

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Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 2: Hatred

“A little hatred goes a long, long way. It grows and grows. And it’s hungry. You keep feeding it more and more people, and the more it gets, the Barriersmore it wants. It’s never satisfied. And pretty soon it squeezes all the love out of your heart and all you’ll have left is a hateful heart.” –Jerry Spinelli in Love, Stargirl    

In other words, hatred is an insatiable monster that demands its supposed due. When people hate, they can all too easily create the rationalization that the other deserves bad things, deserves to be punished…..and by the one who hates.

Hatred clouds the mind as it freezes the heart.  And it does so slowly enough that the one now with the clouds and freezings was not even aware of this progression from a sunny mind and a warm heart.  Yet, it can happen.  Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; the final scene in Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book; the list is long.

Hatred-HeartEventually, hatred becomes self-righteous; the person believes deep within the self that the hatred is not only justified but also moral.  It becomes a quest and even a way of life…….until it turns on the one with the self-righteousness and the sense of the moral quest…..and destroys him.

With hatred, forgiveness is not allowed to grow.  With courage, a person can begin to see hatred within and stand against it, giving forgiveness a chance to grow and to redeem and to lighten and to unthaw.


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I thought I had completely forgiven my “ex” and last night I had a dream that reawakened all of my anger. I had forgiven, maybe, a year ago. Now here I am again fuming. Do you have a suggestion for me to really get over this and forgive permanently?

We have to realize that forgiveness, as the late Lewis Smedes said, is an imperfect enterprise for imperfect people. It is common to have forgiven and then to be triggered by something unexpected, whether it is a dream or meeting the person for the first time, as examples. Because you already know the path of forgiveness, I recommend that you get your backpack on again, and your hiking shoes, and travel the forgiveness road once again. This time it may be quicker with deeper results. And please do not be discouraged if and when you have another trigger for your anger in the months or years ahead. Go on the forgiveness journey once again.

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One Reason Why We Need Forgiveness Education: People Misunderstand What Forgiveness Is

Too often in society the word forgiveness is used casually: “Please forgive me for being 10 minutes late.” Forgiveness is used in place of many other words, such as excusing, distorting the intended meaning. People so often try to forgive with misperceptions; each may have aBarrier-First in Series different meaning of forgiveness, unaware of any error in his or her thinking.

Freedman and Chang (2010, in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling, volume 32, pages 5-34) interviewed 49 university students on their ideas of the meaning of forgiveness and found that the most frequent understanding (by 53% of the respondents) was to “let go” of the offense.  This seems to be similar to either condoning or excusing.  Of course, one can let go of the offense and still be fuming with the offender.  The second most common understanding of forgiveness (20%) was that it is a “moving on” from the offense.  Third most common was to equate forgiveness with not blaming the offender, which could be justifying, condoning, or excusing, followed by forgetting about what happened.  Only 8% of the respondents understood forgiveness as seeing the humanity in the other, not because of what was done but in spite of it.

If we start forgiveness education early, when students are 5 or 6 years old, they will have a much firmer grasp of what forgiveness is…..and therefore likely will be successful in their forgiveness efforts, especially if these students are schooled not only in what forgiveness is but also in how to go about forgiving.


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Woman Encourages Forgiveness After Being Shot by Her Father

KMPH Fox 26 News, Fresno, CA – After spending seven months in the hospital receiving treatment for her gun shot wounds, a California woman is back home and telling everyone that forgiveness was the key to her recovery.

Valerie Alvarez was shot by her father, after he killed her sister. He then killed himself.Forgiveness-word-collage

The woman’s story is remarkable not only because of here struggle to live but because she defies the odds every day.

Alvarez lives with Spina Bifida, a spinal condition with which she was born. She is 34 years old but was not expected to live past the age of 20. Then the seriousness of her condition was magnified, and her life changed forever, on May 27th of last year when the bullet fired from her father’s gun hit her spine.

The shooting occurred just a few months after Alvarez lost her mother. She says her father struggled with the loss and she thinks that loss,  coupled with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from serving in Vietnam, made him snap. After all, it was Memorial Day.

“I think he wanted us all to be together, I think that’s why he did what he did. I don’t think he did it out of anger,” she says.

Alvarez recalls that every day she spent in the hospital after the shooting was a battle. She couldn’t breath on her own. She lost the ability to move her hands.

I forgiveBut then, she says, everything changed with one key decision.

“I forgave my dad,” she says. “That’s the best thing I could have done, was forgive my dad to get better, get my strength back.

“I have my hands now, I can push my chair now. Knowing I can be out there in the world, means the world to me!” she says. “To have my life back again!”

And for those struggling with their own challenges, she offers this advice…

“You can never forget, but you can forgive,” she says.

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