Author Archive: directorifi
After 39 Years in Prison for a Crime He Didn’t Commit, Man Forgives the One Whose Lies Put Him There
After 39 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Ricky Jackson became a free man last November after a judge threw out his conviction for a 1975 murder at a Cleveland grocery store. The conviction was based on a lie told by a 12 year-old boy who was under pressure by police to say he witnessed the crime. Eddie Vernon, the boy who is now grow up, recanted his testimony, which freed Jackson and two other men who were also convicted and imprisoned.
In light of Vernon’s recantation, the state withdrew their case. The hearing ended on a Tuesday. That Friday, 39 years, 5 months, and 27 days after his arrest, Jackson walked out of the courtroom unshackled, making him the longest-serving wrongfully convicted person in American history. Amazingly, Jackson was not revengeful nor vindictive, but forgiving.
When asked by the press what he thought about the man whose false testimony put him behind bars, Jackson said: “Even when I was in prison I feel like I had a better life,” he says. “He couldn’t have a life. He had three ghosts following him around. Despite what people say, without him, we’d still be in prison. He’s the one who put us there, and he was the one who eventually got us out. All is forgiven in my book.”
“People have to remember that they see him as a grown man today, but in ’75 he was a 12 yr. old kid and he was manipulated and coerced by the police and they used him; they used him to get us in prison. So, as far as that young man is concerned, I wish him the best. I don’t hate him; I just wish he has a good life. It took a lot of courage to do what he did in that courtroom that set us free. He’s been carrying a burden around for 39 years, like we have, but in the end he came through, and I’m grateful for that.”
Read the amazing details of Ricky Jackson’s life and the unbelievable circumstances surrounding his more than 14,000 days and nights behind bars and his eventual freedom:
After 39 years in prison, an epic tale of innocence found and bitterness lost
The Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2015.
Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for 39 Years Forgives the Man Who Put Him There (video)
Aleteia, a worldwide network sharing faith resources for the world’s 3.2 billion Catholics and Christians, April 1, 2015.
My stepson is going through the separation from Hell. It is so bad that he and she cannot communicate in even the slightest way, and I fear that in the long run this will have a terrible effect on their son, who is four and learning to navigate their mutual hostilities. I logged onto your site thinking to share it with him with the idea that that would be the start of things getting better, even if she didn’t respond in kind. But reading the entries I thought back on my own relation with him, having seen him being abusive toward his mother when he was younger and living at home, and now seeing that the current circumstance has made him overly dependent on her emotionally. Furthermore, we had to take on debt to pay his legal bills which I view as having been incurred by his making stupid choices along the way, all of which my wife completely concurred with, and then he tried to hide the money he does have by involving my wife in a fraudulent scheme with foreign banks. I can’t stand to be in the same room with him because he is so self absorbed and always presents himself as the victim with no thought that he may have contributed to his own plight. But my wife of course is completely intertwined with him now, not only because her son is suffering, but also because there is a grandchild involved, and that impacts my marriage. So forget about my encouraging him to forgive his ex. I have my own problems forgiving him, and forgiving my wife whom I love dearly in every other aspect of our lives together. Thoughts on that?
I am sorry to hear of your troubles with your son. From your letter, it seems to me that your son is fuming with anger and this started in childhood. He has shown a history of inappropriate behavior and he apparently has brought this anger into the marriage. You are correct: If he does not address that anger and take steps to diminish it, this will affect all of his important relationships, including with his wife, with his own child, and with you as his father and with his own mother.
If he refuses to forgive, then take it slowly with him. Forgiveness cannot be rushed or demanded. He will have to choose it for himself by being drawn to the idea of forgiving others. He may need to forgive his mother for over-indulgence. He may have to forgive you for your deep anger toward him (as you practice forgiving him). And he and his wife need to engage in forgiving and receiving forgiveness from one another if they will save their marriage.
If your son refuses to forgive, remains furious, and places all blame on others, he could be suffering from narcissism, especially if he was over-indulged when growing up. He will need to see this narcissism, practice humility, and even work on seeking forgiveness from those toward whom he has been insensitive.
This is a long list of forgiveness themes. I recommend that your start slowly and see if your son is able to consider forgiving his mother. At the same time, you should consider forgiving him so that your interactions with him are as supportive and loving as possible. See him as emotionally wounded rather than as a big problem for all in the family. This perspective may assist you as you begin to forgive.
I saw on your Facebook page, International Forgiveness Institute, a post on how humility plays a part in forgiveness. I am somewhat confused about that. I have been taught that humility is to lower yourself below other people. Why would you want that for people who forgive?
Humility is not the false belief that you are lower than or worse than other people. It is the correct thought that you are equal to other people, not worse than or better than them in your essence. This, of course, does not mean that one denies the reality that one might be, for example, a better tennis player or a worse singer than others. Our roles do not determine who we are as persons and so we can make distinctions among persons with regard to skills or accomplishments, but not among persons with regard to inherent worth.
Thanks for all you do, Dr. Forgiveness. What do you think are the differences between these terms? Mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, and love.
Grace makes possible love (agape love or service love). Mercy flows from love. Love makes possible mercy, or the willingness to give people even more than what they deserve in a justice-sense. Love and mercy make compassion possible, which is the decision and feeling of suffering along with those who suffer. Grace, love, mercy, and compassion make possible forgiveness which is to love and have mercy and compassion on those who are not having love and mercy and compassion on you.
Please keep in mind that this is not some kind of neat-and-tidy process through which you will be progressing in a steplike fashion. Forgiveness is not that predictable. You may find yourself going back to parts of the process you thought you had conquered long ago. For example, you may be near the end of the process and discover that you still harbor considerable anger toward the person (anger comes near the beginning of the entire forgiveness process). You then may cycle back to the beginning, do some work on your anger , and jump back to the end of the process. Be ready to go backward and forward in the forgiveness process, depending on your particular needs with a particular person whom you are currently forgiving.