Imagine driving. Imagine an object hitting your car. Imagine an accident. Imagine your assailant driving away, abandoning you in your pain. Imagine almost losing your life due to a teenager’s prank. Imagine this happening to you, a loved one, or your child. How would you feel when you met them in court? Would you ask for the highest penalty, forty years in jail for the nineteen year old criminal? Now, imagine not only forgiving the teenager but speaking on their behalf for a lighter sentence.
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That is exactly what Victoria Ruvolo, victim and author of No Room for Vengeance, did. After the teenager apologized to Victoria in court, they embraced and she said, “It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.”1 She later stated, “I took him from being this terrible ogre and made him human. That’s what we all need to do. Just take a step back.”2 We have heard of Pope John Paul forgiving his attacker, but here was a woman, an average woman, who could find it in her heart to forgive a crime which severely harmed her body and disrupted her life. “I had seen too many lives lost,” she said. “How could I go on with my life knowing someone else is rotting in jail?”3
What do we gain by harboring anger, vengeance, and righteousness? In my experience, I have only gained pain for myself. There have been many times in my life where I have felt wronged, attacked, and the victim of a bully or abuser. I have felt the righteous indignation of the victim. I have felt like the other should pay. They should make it right. But these feelings kept me trapped. These feelings were a prison. These feelings keep me from feeling love and joy. They did not do anything to the one I blamed. The only person these feelings harmed was me. I honor Victoria for what she was able to do, but I also know it was selfish – in a good way. Turning her anger into forgiveness released her as much as it released the teenager. Forgiveness freed her to live her life. It freed her to find peace. It freed her to trust.
Where in your life are you harboring anger? Who has wronged you? Who should pay for the pain they have caused you? Write it down. Write down who, what, and why. Then read what you wrote and notice your body. Is it open, relaxed, and peaceful or is it tense, cloudy, and pained? Now write down a letter of forgiveness. You don’t ever have to show it or share it with the individual – this is for you, not them. Read your letter of forgiveness, believe it, and notice your body. How do you feel now?
What we chose, we experience. In choosing vengeance, we feel attacked. In forgiving others, we feel release.