Author Archive: directorifi

Our Follow-up on “Phony Forgiveness”

Timing is amazing sometimes.  We posted a blog essay yesterday (just below this one) on three reasons why quick forgiveness is not necessarily “phony forgiveness” and we then came across this story: “Parents no longer forgive shooter of teen.”

Apparently, parents of a slain youth retracted their forgiveness toward the man who shot him.

We would like to claim that their first overture of forgiveness seems very sincere based on the news story. We have to remember our second point in the earlier blog post: psychological defenses are sometimes strong when tragedy strikes. As they lessen, anger rises.  Now the deep work of forgiveness might begin….in time.  And one more point: Even a retraction of forgiveness is not necessarily a final word on the matter.


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Three Reasons Why “Quick Forgiveness” Is Not Phony

An observant reader asked me recently if our Forgiveness News section might be comprised of many stories in which people are “faking forgiveness” so that they get national and international recognition from the media. After all, the person reasoned, for a few moments their images, words, and actions are in front of thousands or even millions, depending on which media sources carry the story.

While quick pronouncements of forgiveness might lead some to doubt the sincerity of the act, we have three counter-arguments in the debate.

Taking care of your heart1) We must realize that some people are “forgivingly fit,” in that they practice forgiveness regularly in the smaller injustices of life. Such practice readies them for when the tragic injustices come. In other words, years of practice accumulate and aid the forgiver now in the new, gargantuan challenge to forgive, say, the murderer of a loved one. As we watch the person forgive, we do not see the years of practice underlying the act and so we wonder about the sincerity, which is very real because of the practice.

2) Sometimes, our psychological defenses come to our aid when tragedy strikes. These defenses shield us from the intense anger which could emerge now. Yet, after a while, as the defenses begin to weaken, the anger arises afresh and so the initial pronouncement of forgiveness, when the angers subside, is not the final word on the matter. In other words, there still is forgiveness work to do, and this is not dishonorable. Forgiveness is hard work and requires re-visiting from time to time regarding situations we thought we had long-ago forgiven.

True Forgiveness vs False Forgiveness3) For reasons that are unclear to the social scientific community, some people, despite not having practiced forgiveness over and over, do forgive seemingly spontaneously. Their psychological defenses are not masking deep anger. They forgive in a thorough way on the first try. This seems rare, but it does happen.

Phony forgiveness? No, not necessarily. What might appear on the surface as phony could be heroic forgiveness forged in the daily struggle to overcome the effects of injustice.


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A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness

NBC Bay Area – KNTV, San Francisco, CA – Scarlett Lewis lost her six-year-old son Jesse during the Sandy Hook school shooting. In the face of that tragedy, Lewis said she learned to forgive the shooter, in part due to the final message Jesse wrote on their kitchen chalkboard: the words “nurturing,” “healing” and “love.”


Scarlett Lewis
Photo: Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation

Lewis is sharing the story of her son’s final act of bravery as  well as how she learned forgiveness in a book, “Nurturing    Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness.” Jesse Lewis had urged his classmates to flee the school after seeing his teacher shot, investigators learned after gathering accounts from survivors. Six children escaped before 20-year-old Adam Lanza reloaded and shot Jesse.

“I knew that forgiveness was possible… It’s taking your power back. Not forgiving doesn’t feel good,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ book isn’t a story about a massacre. It’s a story about love and survival. It’s about how to face the impossible, how to find courage when you think you have none, and how to choose love instead of anger, fear, or hatred.

“I believe that Jesse was put on this earth to do what he  did… I’m proud of him. I Sandy Hookbelieve he left a message for me: nurturing,  healing, love.” Lewis added. “We understand these final words as a calling from Jesse that says, ‘I have something for you to do for us. That’s to consciously change an angry thought into a loving one’ because it is a choice.”

In addition to the book, Scarlett recently began the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, which promotes ways for communities  to “choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement, and forgiveness  and compassion over bitterness.”

Read the full story: “Newtown Mom Describes Struggle for Forgiveness, Peace After Son’s Death.”

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Father Forgives Daughter’s Killer; Asks Others to do the Same

The Christian Science Monitor, Denver, CO — The father of a 17-year-old girl who was fatally shot at her suburban Denver high school told mourners at the girl’s memorial service that he and his wife have forgiven the killer, and he asked others to do the same.

Investigators say Karl Pierson shot Claire Davis at Arapahoe County High School on Dec. 13. She died eight days later. Pierson, 18, who was also a student at ArapahoeAnger-Rage-etc-Forgiveness High, killed himself after shooting Davis.

“My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson for what he did,” Michael Davis said. “We would ask all of you here and all of you watching to forgive Karl Pierson. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

Davis said Pierson “allowed himself to become filled with anger, rage and hatred. … The fact is that Karl was so blinded by his emotions he didn’t know what he was doing.”

Here is an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor article:

Forgiveness is often misunderstood – and some people may even condemn Mr. Davis’s remarks, believing that they excuse Mr. Pierson’s actions or are an attempt at a “quick fix” – but forgiveness “does not cast justice aside [and] when it comes to a tragedy like this, forgiveness is a long journey,” says Robert Enright, an educational psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of “The Forgiving Life.”

Davis “is not all of a sudden wrapping up all of his negative emotions in a little box … and all is well,” Professor Enright says. “He’s going to be going through a process of forgiveness…. Rage might come into the picture for him” after this initial stage where “psychological Forgiveness-Excuse the crimedefenses” are kicking in, he speculates. “Forgiveness doesn’t wipe away pain; it helps us go through the pain in a healthy way to get to a healthy resolution.”

“Forgiveness simply means that the victim … on their own, irrespective of anything related to the offender, lets go of bitterness and resentment,” Enright says, and lets go of “the right to revenge,” by refusing to retaliate. Victims who forgive can still hold the offender accountable, but they are declaring their freedom – that they won’t be held hostage by the past or by anger, he says.

Read the full article
“Father of slain girl forgives Colorado shooter. Is that helpful?” and watch a video from the memorial service.

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Forgiveness Sets in Motion a Chain Reaction

Digital Journal, Toronto, Canada – Grace and Edmund Fabian spent 24 years as missionaries on the island nation of Papua New Guinea. The married couple spent all those years developing a dictionary of the Nabak language in order to translate the New Testament to the language of the Nabak. The Fabians were close to completing the project when Edmund was suddenly and tragically murdered by a man they considered a Nabak friend.

Grace initially put a pause to her work in order to navigate the country’s judicial system but ultimately she and her four children offered a simple gift to the murderer– forgiveness. Their forgiveness prompted a change within the community. In turn the Nabak people showed her a beautiful model of  reconciliation. Grace then stayed in Papua New Guinea with the Nabak people to  finish the translation of the New Testament.

“I learned that forgiveness sets in motion a chain reaction,” according to Grace, who is now called Amazing Grace by some of her friends.  “There are no loopholes in scripture that excuse us from forgiving. Forgiveness doesn’t just change ourselves, it changes others too.”

Grace’s incredible true story is told in a book she has written called, “Outrageous Grace: A Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness.” Since completing the Papua New Guinea project with Wycliffe Bible Translators, she has returned to the U.S. and now  lives in Pennsylvania where she speaks, teaches and writes. You can visit her online at

Read more at “Could You Forgive Your Husband’s Murderer?” 

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