Forgiveness is “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” Forgiveness is not always easy.
About a dozen years ago in Albany, NY, I witnessed an extraordinary event: four men touched by violence, coming out to speak against the death penalty. Bill Babbitt, seeing his mentally ill brother Manny, who he had turned in to the authorities, executed for murder; David Kaczynski, who turned in HIS brother Ted, the Unabomber; Gary Wright, who himself was almost killed by Ted Kaczynski; and Bud Welch.
They all had compelling stories, but Bud’s moved me the most. In April 1995, his “23-year-old daughter, Julie Marie, was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City along with 167 others… In 2001 Timothy McVeigh was executed for his part in the bombing.”
Bud Welch’s story shows up in that Jesus for President book I’ve been reading:
He said he went through a period of rage when he wanted Timothy McVeigh to die. But he remembered the words of his daughter, who had been an advocate for reconciliation against the death penalty. She used to say, “Execution teaches hatred.” It wasn’t long before Bud had decided to interrupt the circle of hatred and violence and arranged a visit with McVeigh’s family. Bud said he grew to love them dearly, and to this day says he “has never felt closer to God” than in that union.
He decided to travel around the country, speaking about reconciliation and against the death penalty, which teaches that some people are beyond redemption. And he pleaded for the life of Timothy McVeigh. As he worked through his anger and confusion, he began to see that the spiral of redemptive violence must stop with him. And he began to look into the eyes of Timothy McVeigh, the murderer, and see the image of God. He longed for him to experience love, grace, and forgiveness. Bud believes in the scandal of grace.
Read about how Bud developed a bond with Bill McVeigh, Tim’s father, HERE.
Similarly, I came across Project Forgive, which was initially sparked by a different kind of tragedy, a man’s wife and two children being killed by a drunk driver.
The Mayo Clinic notes that forgiveness is good for your health. Forgiveness can lead to:
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
But as I mentioned at the outset, forgiveness is not always easy…