When Does It Become Too Hard to Forgive?

We, as Christians, are familiar with the words of Jesus: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." These are words contained in the 'Our Father,' the 'Lord's Prayer,' which most of us learned as small children.

But how realistic is it to expect one to forgive those who indiscriminately murder your parents, a family member, or a friend? And is it possible to forgive a person or persons who walk into a church or a school building and assassinate huge numbers of students and/or adults? How can a monstrous individual who burns a child with cigarettes be forgiven? Or an evil man deliberately placing a crying baby in her toy chest with a hair dryer until the crying stops and she's dead? How is it possible to forgive those people?

For me, forgiveness doesn't come easy even in the most innocuous circumstances, and where inhumane, incomprehensible criminal acts have been committed, no, never can I forgive! But there are people who do forgive those who've committed heinous crimes, and there are people who do "love thy neighbor as thyself." It is my opinion that anyone who can stand up and say with honesty and sincerity, "I forgive you" can only do so by the grace, the strength, the moral power and substance that comes from God alone.

A baby-faced twenty-one year old who allegedly shoots and kills nine innocent individuals who are praying together in a church is not crazy; he didn't just 'lose it,' or 'go berserk.' He is a hater, a bigot, an egotist, a misanthrope, a detestable individual without scruples, morals, principles, character or honor.

The question is how does such conduct become part of a man or a woman who was once a cooing, laughing, crying, burping, whining, screeching, adorable baby? He or she was not born to become a monster, a person filled with hate, bitterness, anger, resentment, and malice. So when did it happen; how did it happen?

I have no answers, but of this I'm sure: hatred and bigotry are learned behaviors; humans are not born that way.

How wonderful that there are people who are strong enough to forgive. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

I hope to some day be rewarded with God's grace and strength in a way that makes it possible for me to forgive.
By Pat Estelle

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