Monday, January 15, 2007

To Forgive is (to) Divine (Wisdom)

Anne Marie Hagan has devoted her life to the notion of forgiveness. She believes that forgiveness is not necessarily something we do for the offender, but for ourselves.

She should know. On August 17, 1979 , she witnessed the ax-murder of her father in their kitchen. She was aged 19. After devoting her life to ensuring the offender never knew another day of freedom, in 1996 she met and forgave him. That act of forgiveness affected her profoundly, as she describes on her website:
Finally, after almost seventeen years, I let go of all the pain and torment that had held me captive realizing that I had been my own jailer. I accepted deep in my heart that while my life would never be the same after seeing my father murdered, it didn't have to be worse. That was a matter of choice, my choice.
Hagan's sense of forgiveness is not rooted in spirituality or dogma; it is not something she was taught but something she has learned. She speaks of it not as a rule but rather as a tool we can use when we are ready for it, when we need it. Forgiveness need not be a matter of divinity.

It is important to understand that forgiveness is not tantamount to condonation. You can accept that something has happened without accepting that it should happen. The latter demonstrates apathy while the former is a matter of empathy, perhaps the most complex human emotion we are capable of expressing. Though it may not be obvious, our ability to empathize, which essentially allows us to be someone else, is our greatest asset in enabling us to be ourselves; in enabling us to be free. Empathy is a means to forgiveness.

Forgiveness saved the life of Anne Marie Hagan.

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