F is for Forgiveness

Bud Welch, whose daughter died in the OKC bombing, developed a bond with Bill McVeigh, Tim’s father.

forgiveForgiveness 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.

Bud’s narrative I also found on a page called The Forgiveness Project, which uses the process of restorative justice to try to heal both the victim and the perpetrator of wrongs.

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:
Healthier relationships
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
Higher self-esteem

But as I mentioned at the outset, forgiveness is not always easy…

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

21 thoughts on “F is for Forgiveness”

  1. Good post. “Jesus for President” definitely sounds like something I should read. I highly recommend “Peace is in Every Step.”

  2. As you can imagine, I am still working my way through towards forgiveness. It IS difficult but I have also learned that you don’t need to be part of that person’s life anymore. Forgiveness is for ourselves and our own peace of mind. Those needing forgiveness must travel their own path towards recognition and acceptance of their actions.

    abcw team

  3. I’ve heard it said that forgiveness is like setting down the hot coal you were carrying, waiting for the chance to throw it at the person who wronged you.

    I’ve also had pastors tell me you can forgive someone who has greatly wronged you but still keep them out of your life – if there is the risk they will hurt you again. I know some would call that “not forgiving,” but I tend to think it’s more self-preservation. I have people I’ve forgiven but if they wanted to try to restart a friendship with me I’d probably do what I could NOT to.

    Another question I’ve discussed with people: can you forgive someone who has not repented of the wrong they’ve done you? I say yes, because forgiveness is more for the forgiver, to allow them to move on, but a friend of mine says no, that it is only forgiveness if the person who did the wrong realizes they are wrong and asks for forgiveness.

  4. Forgiveness is something my faith requires of me since I’ve been forgiven much. It is very hard sometimes but still necessary…

  5. Roger, we have to get that book and read it. There is a great need for reconciliation after Tony Robinson’s death here in Madison… but still the chasm between races exists, despite best efforts. The idea of capital punishment has always repulsed me, as you know. Forgiveness is the only way to help a surviving loved one heal that loss. Hardest thing in the world was to forgive my father for molesting me. I still write about it because others need to know and relate and discover their own healing; I will never forget, but yes, forgiveness was essential.

    Forgiving a person who has stolen your flesh and blood must be the hardest thing in the world. The people of Charleston set the bar high, as did the Amish community who lost their kids to a murderer.

    Thanks for a thoughtful write, Rog. Amy

  6. Plenty of food for thought there. In India the death penalty is rare but we had one pretty recently and there was a great debate on whether there is a crime big enough to justify it. In Bud I see an evolved soul. To find it in your heart to forgive the killer of your daughter, – that must have been hard.

  7. Some interesting concepts , even in the comments, here Roger.
    We don’t have capital punishment in the UK but some crimes
    are so heinous that people often rise up and call for capital
    My Christian doctrine preaches forgiveness.
    It also, some where in the bible says ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth
    for a tooth’.
    Then, in The Ten Commandments ‘Thou shall not kill’ … difficult to
    know what doctrine to adhere to?
    I have forgiven people who have wronged me, but then, I haven’t forgotten.
    Complex subject Roger but most interesting and thought provoking article.

    Best wishes,
    ABCW team.

  8. last night I listened to a talk, he said real forgiveness is forgiving without the other person asking for it. Hmmmm! food for thought.

  9. I am always moved by stories of people who forgive those who have committed the most terrible act of murder and taken loved ones away. What special people they are.

  10. This was a very profound and touching post my friend. Although I agree with you that it’s not easy to forgive, it definitely will set us free when we do. Blessings!

  11. What a profound post. Foregiveness is not for the accused but for the victim. We can’t hold onto that anger, fear as it corrodes our soul.Thank you.

  12. I agree foregiveness is not easy. Especially the petty things that are really easy to forgive, yet for insane reasons I keep causing a chip on my shoulder. Not something pretty to wear.

  13. I, too, found this to be a profound post, Roger. As you said, coming to the point of being able to forgive is quite a challenge. Time definitely helps, but then again, I’ve never suffered the loss of a loved one murdered. As I look back, I can think of only a few occasions requiring me to forgive, and the deeds were much, much smaller than the ones read about here. I went to the link you supplied to read more of Bud’s story. It really touched my heart.

  14. I try to…. since a shrink told me that it does not mean you approve the others action but forgive someone so that it won’t hurt you any longer.

    Difficult subject, very difficult in some occassions. but i keep on trying.

    Have a nice weekend.

    (sorry for my late respons, you know why)

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