Tagged: “forgiveness is a choice”
Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog by Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust who, with her twin sister Miriam, was subjected to human experimentation under Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Both of her parents and two older sisters died at the camp; only she and Miriam survived. Her recent video, produced by BuzzFeed, has drawn almost 5 million views on YouTube: I Survived The Holocaust Twin Experiments.
by Eva Mozes Kor
Forgiveness is a way of healing oneself from pain, trauma, and tragedy. It is a means of self-liberation and self-empowerment.
Forgiving is not forgetting. In many cases, it is impossible to forget events that deeply affect our lives. They shape our lives for better or for worse.
Forgiving does not mean we condone the evil deeds of the Nazis or other perpetrators. But in some cases, giving amnesty clears the issue for the victim and for society. The question of justice is separate from the issue of forgiveness.
This concept of forgiveness has little or nothing to do with the perpetrator. It has everything to do with the need of victims to be free from the pain inflicted upon them.
This concept of forgiveness has nothing to do with any religion. All people yearn to live free of the pain and burden of the past. If it is confined to one religion, then some people will not be able to access it.
Each person can forgive only in his or her name. One cannot forgive in the name of all Holocaust survivors. Forgiveness is a very personal thing, but if we feel troubled and hurt by learning about the victimization of others, then we have the right to take action or forgive the perpetrators when the time comes to forgive.
When we live in a place where our lives are in direct danger, the mindset of survival sets in, and survival and forgiveness do not go together. We can forgive only after the violence has ended, and the victim is at peace with his or her surroundings and wants to heal that chapter of his or her life.
However, forgiveness can prevent future violence. If we can teach people that when they are hurting instead of acting out of pain they can heal themselves through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is more than just letting go. It is proactive rather than passive. We become victims involuntarily, when a person or entity with power takes away our power to use our mind or body or both. Something was done to us that put us in a position of feeling powerless. Thus, the conscious choice to forgive provides healing, liberation, and reclamation of this lost power.
I would like to share some more ideas about forgiveness.
Forgiveness unclutters one’s mind and life, permitting us to view the world through unobstructed vision, see the beauty around us, be open to new positive experiences, and embrace the wonderful people in the wonderful world that we meet. If we did not forgive, we would not be able to experience these feelings.
Forgiveness is like a prescription or medicine for physical health and well-being. If we stay angry, this anger poisons our lives and our health. Some people say that the perpetrators don’t deserve forgiveness. That might be so, but if we can heal them and make them into loving, caring human beings, and therefore improve life for everyone in the world, I don’t see a problem with it.
Forgiveness in my opinion brings serenity, healing, respect, freedom, peace, and love. Let’s see what the opposition brings: pain, anger, revenge, and war. So I am puzzled that when people know all that, they are still willingly acting as victims, when they have the choice to live in peace and be happy instead.
It would be nice if the great organization of the United Nations, with the upcoming anniversary in December 2018, 70 years to the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would add an addendum. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a beautiful document, but it does not have anything for victims who have already been hurt. I think it should include that every human being has the human right 1. To be happy and 2. To live free of the pain and burden imposed on them by life or society. It would really help people if that came from an organization like the United Nations.
I would like to make an effort to use forgiveness in prisons. I believe that most of these prisoners were not born to spend their days in prison or to commit a crime. So my question is, were many of these prisoners victims before they became prisoners? I would say it is quite possible that every unhealed victim has the potential to become a perpetrator. (Read more from Eva Kor following the call-out text in the box below.)
I forgive you – In one of her many interviews following her release from Auschwitz, Eva told the anecdote of how she once sat in her room, imagining that Joseph Mengele was sitting right next to her.
“I picked up a dictionary and wrote 20 nasty words, which I read clear and loud to that make-believe Mengele in the room. And in the end, I said: ‘In spite of all that, I forgive you.’ Made me feel very good, that I, the little guinea pig of 50 years, even had the power over the Angel of Death of Auschwitz.’ ” Source: The Vintage News
I also would like to help and have programs for veterans who have been trained to defend their lives on the battlefield, but they have never been able to heal themselves from that they have seen, experienced, or done. And the post-traumatic stress that they carry with them for years could be easily removed with forgiveness sessions and workshops.
I find it sad, and it pains me to know, that children who were born in the wrong place and the wrong time, who don’t get loving and nurturing families, end up in juvenile centers. We want to help them and teach them that it’s 1. Not their fault and 2. There is something they can do about it. We would teach them that forgiveness is a skill that will heal them. We cannot change their past, but we can teach them how to cope with it better.
And as I have been talking to Dr. Robert Enright in Madison, Wisconsin, he would like to start teaching forgiveness in first grade as a skill for life. And I agree with him 100%.
Let’s work together to heal the world through forgiveness. Not bullets, not bombs. Just forgiveness.
Learn more about Eva Mozes Kor and her amazing story at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a nonprofit organization actually founded by Ms. Kor and her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Ziegler. CANDLES is an acronym for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. Since its founding in 1984, the organization has sought to locate and honor the 3,000 twins who were victims of Dr. Josef Mengele’s deadly genetic experiments. The search for more twins continues to this day.
Has the struggle with the injustice made you tired? Let us say that you have 10 points of energy to get through each day. How many of those points of energy do you use fighting (even subconsciously) the injustice as an internal struggle? Even if you are giving 1 or 2 points of your energy each day to this, it is too much and could be considered another wound for you.
When you consider the person and the situation now under consideration, do you see any changes in your life that were either a direct or indirect consequence of the person’s injustice? In what way did your life change that led to greater struggle for you? On our 0-to-10 scale, how great a change was there in your life as a result of the injustice? Let a 0 stand for no change whatsoever, a 5 stand for moderate change in your life, and a 10 stand for dramatic change in your life. Your answer will help you determine whether this is another wound for you. As you can see, the wounds from the original injustice have a way of accumulating and adding to your suffering.
I have a friend who has been deeply hurt in a family situation. She keeps telling me that she can lead a perfectly healthy and happy life even if she puts forgiveness aside. Is she correct?
She is correct if she truly can live a healthy and happy life without forgiving in the face of grave injustices. A problem with ascertaining a healthy life is this: Ill health does not necessarily come on quickly. Instead, in many cases, resentment can chip away at health such as poor eating habits that eventually take their toll on the body, or reduced energy that eventually leads to being out of shape physically. Thus, people saying that they are healthy without forgiving is not so easy to discern. With regard to happiness, she will see as she continues in life whether or not she has joy. If she does, and finds this without forgiving, then she is correct. If, on the other hand, she concludes that she is not joyous, then perhaps it is time to at least consider forgiving as an option.
Can you help me understand how to release a relationship as part of the forgiveness process? Choosing to erect an emotional boundary feels like a form of punishment, but there is logic in it too if the offender hasn’t taken responsibility for the hurt and is likely to offend again. When is releasing a relationship the best option, and how do you do it lovingly? Thank you.
The key here is to distinguish forgiving and reconciling. If the other refuses to change and is hurtful, then it may not be wise to continue a relationship. At the same time, you can see the person’s inherent worth and forgive. Sometimes, even when we offer our best to another, the person rejects our love. We still can forgive and then go in peace.
The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO – An American survivor of two terrorist attacks has a message for the assailants: “I forgive you.”
Mason Wells, a 20-year-old missionary from Sandy, Utah, was a short distance from one of the two bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three spectators and wounding 260 others. Neither he nor his mother, who was running in the race, was injured.
Three years later, Wells was only 10 feet from the first bomb to explode at the Zaventem International Airport in Brussels, Belgium during a terrorist attack that killed 32 people and injured about 260 others. Wells suffered extensive burns to his face and hands, shrapnel wounds to his head, and blast wounds to his lower legs.
“What you did was evil. You killed innocent people and meaningful lives.
I still carry scars from that day, but I have chosen to forgive you. I have learned that the decision to forgive is ours and ours alone.
By forgiving you and getting past the events of that day, I’ve become a stronger person. It’s about letting go of yesterday and not letting the hardest moments of our lives define us. I want you to know that good has come in the wake of your evil acts.”
Wells recently wrote a book, Left Standing, about his ordeal. In it, he outlines how he learned to forgive the Brussels attackers for their atrocities. He’s now enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he’s studying engineering.