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.