Author Archive: directorifi
By Leslie Neale, Chance Films, Inc.
Would you become friends with the person who shot you or killed your only son?
For most of us this is unimaginable.
There are those, however, who in order to understand the crime have reached through the bars to connect with and then surprisingly befriend the criminals who devastated their lives.
This is the premise of my newly completed film, Unlikely Friends, a feature length documentary narrated by acclaimed actor, Mike Farrell, telling the heroic journey that five victims of horrific, violent crime choose to walk.
The seeds of this film were planted many years ago when I met Nelson, a bank robber featured in my first documentary, Road to Return. Nelson told me he was consumed with an overriding compulsion to go back to the bank he robbed once he was released from prison and APOLOGIZE.
He told me the story of sitting around a conference table in a small town community bank tucked in the rural banks of Louisiana, sharing pictures of one another’s families with the bank’s employees and swapping stories of their lives. They were all crying. The teller, who Nelson held a gun to 12 years prior, finally looked up at him with tears streaming down her face and said, “Thank you. Thank you for coming back here and apologizing because for 12 years I have not been able to get you out of my mind, and I have lived in fear you would come back and kill me.” I thought to myself the brilliance in that simple act of forgiveness. I immediately understood the implications, not only for his heart to be unburdened from the weight of knowing he harmed innocent strangers but also for the victim to be released from the terror of that nightmare. She was finally able to let go of her obsessive thoughts and fears.
This story convinced me to make a film on the concept of forgiveness, to explore how it might be used to affect positive change within our criminal justice system.
Nelson told me that it took him eight years to realize the damaging effects of what he had done. He had left a couple of precious stamps on his bunk “his only link to the outside world” and another inmate stole them. He vowed then to apologize to those he robbed if and when he got out.
The cornerstone to any true and lasting rehabilitation is taking full accountability for what you’ve done. Victims and offenders coming together in victim offender dialogues can be the catalyst for that connection to be made. Forgiveness is not expected from these dialogues but when it happens, it is life changing for both.
Debbie wanted the death penalty for Gabriel, the man who killed her only son. She says she was eaten up with anger and bitterness before she forgave him. In turn, Gabriel shares that her forgiveness affects every action he now takes–if she can forgive him, then he can forgive all the daily transgressions that occur around him in prison. Most of us think theses stories are the exception. Yet, I was surprised to find more stories than I could tell. There are many people who have forgiven acts that most of us deem unforgivable–and the numbers are growing.
Guest Blog by Leslie Neale, Chance Films, Inc.
Premise #1: To forget is to not remember in the sense of moving on and not letting the emotional effects of injustices bother us any more.
Premise #2: To forgive is to forget.
Conclusion: Therefore, when we forgive, we do not remember what happened to us, making us vulnerable to continued injustice.
When we fail to remember what happened to us, this can be dangerous because we might let others again take advantage of us.
Because forgiveness might hasten our not remembering, forgiveness is dangerous.
What is wrong with the above argument?
In logic, we have just committed the fallacy of equivocation. By this we mean that there are two very different meanings of at least one word in the argument. The first use of the term “forget” in Premise #1 equates to “moving on” or “putting the injustice behind us.”
The second use of the term “forget” in the Conclusion of the syllogism equates to a kind of amnesia, a blotting out of what happened rather than a moving on from what happened.
Yes, when we forgive we forget (meaning #1) in that we move on.
No, when we forgive we do not forget (meaning #2) in that we can no longer remember anything of what happened, making us vulnerable to another’s continued injustice.
To forgive is to forget in a certain meaning of that term and given that meaning, to forgive is not dangerous, at least not in the sense of “dangerous” meant here.
This might help you understand what it is you are doing when you forgive. We are in a dark room, which represents the disorder of unjust treatment toward you. As you stumble around for a match to light a candle, this effort of groping in the dark for a positive solution represents part of the struggle to forgive. As you now light the candle, the room is illumined by both the light and warmth of the candle. When you forgive, you offer warmth and light to the one who created the darkness.
You destroy the darkness in your forgiving.
Now here is what I am guessing you did not know about the light of forgiveness: That light does not just stay in that little room. It goes out from there to others and it even continues to give light across time. For example, if you shed light and warmth on a person who has bad habits, he or she might be changed by your forgiveness and pass it along to others in the future.
Now consider this: If you give this warm candle of forgiveness to your children who give it to their children, then this one little candle’s light can continue across many generations, long after you are no longer here on earth.
I am guessing that you had not thought about forgiveness in quite this way before.
Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, will be giving a talk entitled, “Forgiveness Therapy and Forgiveness Education: Healing Individual Hearts and Nations,” on April 10, 2013, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Roundtable Luncheon, 11:45am to 1pm in Union South, Varsity Hall.
According to the luncheon announcement: Robert D. Enright is professor in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is president of the International Forgiveness Institute, has lectured across the country, and has appeared on ABC’s 20/20.
Within psychology, the study and implementation of forgiveness therapy is now taken for granted. Thirty years ago, no such therapy existed. The pioneering research that opened this to the therapeutic world was started right here on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus by Professor Robert Enright, Department of Educational Psychology. He has now extended this work to include forgiveness education in contentious regions of the world such as Belfast, Northern Ireland, Liberia, and Africa.
In this presentation, Professor Enright will address what forgiveness is and is not, how people forgive in a therapeutic context, including the research which helped the American Psychological Association to judge forgiveness therapy as an empirically-verified treatment, and how forgiveness education operates in Belfast and Liberia.
Omaha World Herald, Omaha, NE – His voice weak from an August 2011 shooting, Kerry Baker told his wife in a near whisper to forgive the young men involved in the robbery that left Baker paralyzed from the neck down.
“Kerry would always tell me, ‘You have to forgive them. They got what they got,'” Andrea Baker said, her voice breaking. “I’ve forgiven them. But I’m mad at them. So mad at them. And Kerry never was.”
Baker, an author and a barber, had been confined to a bed in his north Omaha home since he was shot by gang member Josh Provencher during a botched robbery at his barbershop.
The anger multiplied last week when Baker, 42, died–a death that authorities believe may be related to complications of the shooting and paralysis. Now Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine is mulling whether he can bring a murder charge against Provencher, who already was sentenced to 47 to 99 years in prison for Baker’s shooting.
In a September interview, Baker talked about how much he loved telling stories in print or at the barbershop. His once-husky voice was barely audible over the hum of his ventilated bed. But he wanted it made clear. He was moving forward. And he had forgiven Provencher.
Read the full story: “Shooting victim’s forgiveness never wavered.”