Author Archive: directorifi

Rape Victim Meets Attacker to Forgive Him

BBC News UK, London – A rape victim who met her attacker in prison in order to tell him she has forgiven him called the visit a “great” experience to seek “peace and forgiveness together.”

ForgivenessLondon resident Katja Rosenberg, 40, was cycling home after work when she was attacked by a 16-year-old stranger. He was eventually captured and jailed for 14 years after admitting to that attack and another rape of a 51-year-old woman shortly afterwards.

Rosenberg said she felt she could forgive soon after the 2006 rape, believing things must have gone wrong in her attacker’s life. “You wouldn’t ever do that if you felt happy,” she told BBC Radio 5 live.

Rosenberg said she had always felt in the years since that she should meet her attacker. She finally visited him in prison last September–a meeting arranged through a restorative justice program.  Rosenberg said she was partly motivated by a wish to assure her attacker that “life’s not hopeless, that he knows he’s got a future”, she said.

“I just felt I could give that. I also thought the exchange would be good for me to somehow get some kind of closure – I mean, I didn’t really need a ‘Sorry’, but it was somehow just good to see that you walk into the same direction of peace and forgiveness together.”

Read the full story: “Rape victim meets attacker to forgive him.”

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“I Have Forgiven You for Murdering My Mother. . .”

Amarillo Globe News, Amarillo, Texas – Before a District Judge sentenced a 22-year-old man to life in prison without parole for killing an 84-year-old woman and assaulting her developmentally disabled daughter, the woman’s adult children addressed the court to talk of forgiveness and faith.

Imogene Wilmoth Harris, who died of blunt force trauma on Aug. 14, 2011, was described by her family as a giving woman who taught Bible study and worked with stroke victims to help them regain their speech. The man who killed her, Esequiel Gomez Jr.,  was eventually captured and pled guilty to capital murder in a plea agreement that spared him from Death Row.

Mother-daughterFamily members, who supported the decision to grant Gomez a life sentence instead of lethal injection, spoke at his sentencing last week in a tiny, hushed courtroom.

“The bottom line is this, Mr. Gomez: I have forgiven you,” said Harris’ daughter Shelley Fields. “I have forgiven you for murdering my mother and raping my little sister, but I will never forget what you took from us that night.”

Another daughter, Holly Chester, also told Gomez she forgave him while the victim’s eldest daughter, Peggy Guthrie, said, “God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others.”

Read the full story: “Tulia family speaks of forgiveness, punishment during killer’s sentencing.”

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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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