Aching for Justice – A Case for Forgiveness

This is a picture of a sapling growing from the dirt. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/plant-soil-sapling-seedling-growth-912796/

I read the stories of post-apartheid South Africa with sadness, bewilderment and awe
Forgiveness was the bedrock of rebuilding this nation through Truth and Reconciliation
Cities and towns were filled with those who committed horrendous crimes
And the families who had suffered at their hands

It’s hard to understand

They lived together
Running into each other at supermarkets and banks
People who murdered their husband or wife, sister or daughter

They lived together

Those who told the truth of their crimes were pardoned
During hearings, some of those on trial would ask the forgiveness of family members
Family members who had lost their loved ones at their hands
Would look into the eyes of this man who had stolen so much – and chose to forgive
It’s hard to understand

So I write. I contemplate and hypothesize.

I wonder how people could forgive those who committed such crimes
How could they even look them in the eye?
How do people find justice when so many are blind
When those who’ve been hurt are dismissed and denied?
How do they not take justice into their own hands
When those who were meant to uphold them added such chaos to the land?

It’s hard to understand
Yet, I believe people forgive not just out of moral obligation
People forgive because to hold on to hatred is its own kind of prison

I have a heart that is aching for justice and aching for peace
For while we have not all suffered in the same way
I would hypothesize there is not one person reading these words
That does not long for justice that has yet to be served

They were wrong
We were strong
I wish we could all just get along
Yet, life does not always work out that way

People leave chaos in their wake
I pray they would change
Not for me, but for their own sake
I couldn’t imagine living a life that causes so much pain

They were wrong
We were strong
Why can’t we just get along?
What happened to respect and common decency?
I don’t want to see this belly of humanity

But that’s what it is – still – humanity
I can’t only see the red on their hands
Because that’s not all they are

I forgive because I need to
I forgive because I cannot hold that kind of hatred
It’s not who I am

There are places where the light of justice may never shine in my lifetime
And I want to live
I may not be able to look them in the eye
I may still angry, anxious and disgusted all at the same time
But they need to live with themselves
I need to live with myself

So I forgive
Even if they never change
Even if they leave chaos in their wake
I will grieve but I will not hate

I will change
I will be the person I believe I need to be in this journey of our humanity
I will release this anger with a cry
So love can once again permeate my heart soul and mind

Now I can more fully realize why they forgave
It had so little to do with the people who had caused such pain

They forgave because they cherished who they were
They refused to be tarnished by another’s hate
They wanted to live and rebuild in the wake of the chaos not prepare for another war
They believed in humanity

They forgave to uphold who they were even if no else could relate
They forgave because it is the greatest act of protection in the wake of this
hatred that can erode so many connections

Forgiveness gives us a way to part the red sea
It’s not an easy journey
Yet, it’s the only way to truly be free from an invisible slavery
To no longer constantly be calculating whether they have served their time
Or have finally changed their ways
No, that’s their journey
Do not let anger and the need for justice tie us up in their misery

The best thing I could do is to be right here
Release what I cannot change
Be who I am to be
Start each day knowing I can part the red sea

As for me?
I forgive because it’s who I am and how I want to live

They were wrong
We are strong
We will lift our heads high and carry on

 

 

Reference

Swarns, R. (2003). Looking for Hope in an Apartheid Monster’s Eyes. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/10/arts/looking-for-hope-in-an-apartheid-monster-s-eyes.html

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