The courage to forgive?

The terror attacks of last week shocked the nation, and the effects of this are still reverberating.


However what I have experienced has not been a raise in anger or prejudice or discrimination-but an outpouring of generosity, compassion thankfulness and gratefulness.  Many voices have spoken of London and the nation pulling together to get through this terrible time.


In the immediate aftermath I heard a message on the radio from a policeman who wished to remain anonymous.  He had been very close to Parliament during and after the terror attack and he wanted to thank the public for their acts of kindness and generosity shown not only to him but to their fellow human beings.  He wanted to also thank the public for their kind words in support of the police in general and for the fallen police man’s family.  This anonymous policeman was unable to use social media (for fear of terror reprisals) however he wished to convey a message:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (Martin Luther King Jr).


I reflected on these beautiful words with my regular dog walking pal.  My friend had heard an interview on the radio with the husband of the murdered MP Jo Cox.  He was talking about how we should remember those who have died or injured by focusing on what they meant to us-if we knew them.  And if we didn’t know them not to focus our attention on the terrorist but to remember the courage and compassion shown by the police, health care professionals and fellow humans in their attempts to help the injured, the dying and the witnesses.  He said that to think of the terrorist is to create division fear and prejudice which is what the terrorists want-and in that way they would win.  Often we feel like we wish to revenge their actions.  And I was reminded of the words of Mahatma Gandhi:


“An I for an eye and the whole world goes blind”.


When we feel we have been wronged or blamed it is really challenging for us to think about, let alone offer, forgiveness to the other.  I know that I have stood back in amazement, humbled by the acts of forgiveness both big and small that I have witnessed or heard of.  We might have come across in the news, programmes where the criminal meets their victim to apologise and I have certainly read reports where these victims have verbally stated to the criminal that they are forgiven.


Forgiveness is a massive gift-and a healthy one.  When we do not forgive we often hold that anger and resentment inside our bodies and it creates tension, anxiety, anger and maybe even depression.  Once we forgive the other, and let go we are free from that tension and resentment.  It’s a big ask and as I sit here writing this, I may have forgiven people for the small things: would I have the courage to forgive someone who has hurt or wronged me in a massive way?  I guess I will never know that without being there…