Because we tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on other people, I usually recommend first trying to forgive other people. Become familiar with this process: seeing the inherent worth in the other, softening your heart toward the other, bearing the pain so you do not hurt the other. Once you have a sense of these aspects of forgiveness, then apply the same themes to yourself: know you have inherent worth, not because of what you did but in spite of this. Soften your heart toward yourself, again not because of what you did, but in spite of this. Commit to not harming yourself. One aspect of self-forgiveness that differs from forgiving others is this: In your self-forgiving, examine whether you might have hurt other people by your actions (that require self-forgiveness). Go to those whom you have offended and ask for forgiveness.
“I was angry, livid. . .” Murakami admitted. “I said to myself, ‘Let me find the punk, I’m gonna take care of him.’”
When Cabezas was not initially charged with causing the crash, Murakami’s life went into a tailspin of depression.
“I was a walking zombie. I sold my business, sat on the beach every day. I put my Bible down. I didn’t want anything to do with God. Nothing”
Three years later, Cabezas was finally charged with 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter. But something happened when Murakami finally saw Cabezas in court. He wasn’t the monster Murakami had envisioned. That’s when this father’s fight for justice turned into a father’s fight to forgive.
“I started preaching to myself on forgiveness. Even though I never met this kid, I started forgiving him for what he did,” Murakami says. “After we met, I knew he was suffering as much as I was.”
Cabezas was facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Murakami shocked the court, however, by asking the judge not to send Cabezas to jail.
“If he goes to prison for 30 years, everyone’s going to forget about him. Everyone’s going to forget about Cindy and Chelsea,” Murakami said to the judge. “What if he and I went out to schools and talked to young people?”
With the court’s consent, the two men went to hundreds of schools across the country, speaking to more than a half-million kids about the dangers of speeding. But Murakami also used those presentations to help kids understand that even after tragic mistakes, they too could find redemption like Cabezas.
“I didn’t want to waste his life. He came from a good family. We’ve all made mistakes,” Murakami added.
Murakami and Cabezas also founded a not-for-profit organization called Safe Teen Driver that includes a unique driver education program offered free to teens who learn by driving actual professional go-karts on a professional track while practicing skills that could save their lives. Parents are required to participate and learn the importance of their role in developing a safe teen driver.
Cabezas went on to become a successful real estate agent in Texas before dying of cancer last summer. Murakami went to the funeral and spoke from the pulpit about the importance of forgiveness.
Read the full story: Tampa man’s quest for justice instead becomes lesson in forgiveness
Watch a short video from WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL about Bruce Murakami’s life-changing decision to forgive.
What is your opinion of children who observe their parents fighting all the time. Do you think this observing child might become a bully in school or a difficult partner when an adult?
This depends on what the child, who now is an adult, has learned from what was observed about the parents. It is possible that the person might gain wisdom from the parents’ fighting and realize that such a pattern is not healthy. Thus, the person may deliberately commit to not following the parents’ behavior. In contrast, if the person does not reflect on the potentially destructive pattern, then, yes, the person may grow up to show bullying behaviors in school and to repeat the pattern of a conflictual relationship with a partner. In other words, insight along with a commitment to not imitate the conflictual behavior might spare the person from repeating the parents’ behavioral pattern.
Learn more at Family Forgiveness Guidelines.
You say that part of forgiveness is to offer compassion toward the one who offended you. The one who hurt me has passed away. How can I begin to have compassion on this person?
Compassion includes at least four elements:
1) Sympathy toward the one who hurt you. Sympathy is an emotional reaction to another’s pain. For example, if someone comes to you angry that he just lost his job and now is struggling financially, you have sympathy when you feel sorry for the person. His anger and unfortunate situation leads to a different emotion in you: sadness.
2) Empathy toward the one who hurt you. Empathy is stepping inside the other’s shoes (so to speak) and feeling the same feeling as the other. Thus, when the other is angry, you empathize with that person when you also feel anger.
3) Behaving toward the other by supporting him or her in the time of distress. This could include a kind word or talking about the strategy of solving the job problem, as examples.
4) Suffering along with the person. This latter point is the deepest aspect of compassion. It could involve helping the person financially before a new job is secured; it could involve driving the person to a job interview.
In the case of having compassion for a deceased person, you can have sympathy and empathy (the first two elements of compassion), but you cannot engage in the other two elements because behavior with and toward the other is not possible. Compassion need not have all four elements to count as compassion. You can think of the hard times endured by the deceased person and react with sympathy and empathy. Such compassion may aid your forgiveness.
Learn more by reading any of these books by Dr. Forgiveness -Dr. Robert Enright:
I am feeling hopeless. I know people forgive to restore peace in a relationship, but that is not possible for me. What do you suggest?
Reasons for forgiveness go beyond only a restored relationship. You can forgive because it is good in and of itself. You can forgive to rid yourself of resentment. You can forgive to pass the insights on how to forgive to your children. Thus, even if a restored relationship is not possible, you still may forgive if you choose to do this. Our research shows that as people forgive, their sense of hope increases in a statistically-significant way. You need not remain with a sense of hopelessness.
Learn more at 8 Reasons to Forgive.