Tuesday, March 3, 2009

As We Forgive, book review

You. Need. This. Book.

I feel like I should repeat myself.

You. Need. This. Book.

I actually watched the documentary by the same name a couple of weeks ago at church, and it brought me to tears. The documentary tells the stories of three women who suffered in the Rwanda genocide and, more than ten years later, how their lives are slowly recovering.

But it's not so much about recovery as it is about how forgiveness brings recovery. See, Rwanda released about 60,000 murderers who were convicted for participating in the genocide. That's right. How would you feel if not one, but 60,000 murderers were released in your state (Rwanda is about the size of Maryland)? How would you feel if these murderers were the ones who brutally assaulted and killed your sisters, your brothers, your parents, your elderly grandparents, your children -- and you? How would you cope?

Murderers who had showed repentance for their crimes were released, and there are dozens of organizations that are trying to unite persecutor and victim through forgiveness.

How can this happen?

As soon as I saw the film, I rushed home and ordered the book. It's wonderful yet horrifying. Catherine Claire Larson tells the stories of seven different individuals, many of whom reconciled with the men who destroyed their worlds. There's Rosaria, who lost her children, her husband, her whole family, but still managed to forgive their killers. She is at peace. There's Claude, who spent months in hiding and still lost so many in his family and became an orphan. He spent years planning his revenge, and, when he sought to kill those who had murdered his loved ones, his plan was foiled. It was not until years later that he was thankful that he did not get to kill the killers.

The most riveting part of this book, though, was the ability of many of those interviewed to forgive. How can you forgive someone who killed your children or your husband? How can you forgive the men who raped you? I can't fathom that. Seriously. I absolutely cannot fathom that.

But I can fathom those who have hurt me in the past, those who injured me with words, those who I chose for so long not to forgive. I saw myself as Chantel, the woman who could not forgive John (though now she is trying to forgive), who grew hardened and bitter through her experiences. And what did I have to show for my bitterness? Nothing.

If the Rwandans can forgive those who killed their loved ones, how can I not forgive people for such smaller hurts? How selfish, how pompous am I that I will not forgive? It made me really take a good look at myself and realize how seriously I was taking myself -- for no reason.

Forgiveness is not easy, but does that matter? Getting my master's degree wasn't easy, marriage isn't easy, my work isn't easy, but is it worth it? Of course!!

That's not to say that I condone the actions of those who I harbored anger toward. That's not to say that I think they are right in what they have done or will grow closer to them because, in the words of so many pastors and leaders, you stay away from danger. And I do not want to put myself or my family in a dangerous situation.

But I do forgive. Fully, wholly, completely forgive. It's a very freeing result.


septembermom said...

Thank you for sharing this story about the power of forgiveness. Considering the horrors that these poor people went through, it is amazing how willing they are to forgive the people who murdered their families. Thank you for reminding us all to step out of our own hangups and grudges and forgive. I don't know how easy it is, but it is something we should all strive for. I have to get this book.

CR said...

sounds like something i need to pick up!

Brooke said...

wow, i don't understand how people can do that. its amazing!

Mari said...

I wonder if I can find this movie here. It sounds good!

Growin' With It said...

ugg. why oh why do i get upset over stupid stuff. seriously stupid. when i hear about things like this it is so humbling to me that my life is in such a box that i make it all about me. w/o even reading this book (yet), you have given a beautiful reminder about forgiveness and what a gift it is to have and give!

misti said...

You're better than I am :)

That's a hard concept, especially for such a prideful person as me. It's easy to hold grudges - forgiving is what is difficult.

Clearly, I do need to read that...

LuAnn said...

Thank you for sharing - Amen !!!!

Anonymous said...

Awesommme! So, can I pass that bloggy award along??

Mrs.Naz@BecomingMe said...

Wow...thank you for sharing this powerful message

Anonymous said...

this is a great story! and your words added make it so real!

forgiveness is very hard, but if we don't forgive it truly doesn't let us feel free. i have had to forgive some important individuals in my life and although i fogive them, i don't accept what they did.

it also helps to know that you don't need to tell the person you forgive them. that's between you and God. they don't need to know.

this sounds like a fantastic book...thanks for sharing!

Jackie said...

Amazing - I absolutely cannot imagine that level of forgiveness, either. And now after this post, I feel so...well, convicted, I guess, that I allow little things to get to me. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Wow - I'm going to have to read this now!

Mark said...

Hi Lois, you don't know me but I am Catherine Claire Larson's husband and I wanted to thank you for your blog post on her book! I saw your blog via my Google alert so thank you for that!

If any of your visitors would like to learn more about the book or movie, Catherine's blog is at www.AsWeForgiveBook.com. She also passes along her thanks as knowing that her book is changing lives really encourages her!

Thanks again!
Mark Larson