The power of forgiveness

The lead article in Monday’s Advocate was a bit of a jolt for me.

The lead article in Monday’s Advocate was a bit of a jolt for me.

You wouldn’t think routine news coverage of Earthdance in Red Deer would disturb anyone’s morning coffee, but Lorinda Stewart’s honest and heartfelt accounting of what goes into the souls of victims of violence shook up memories that sometimes refuse to stay buried.

Stewart’s daughter Amanda Lindhout was kidnapped, terrorized and tortured for 460 days in Somalia. Our son was attacked, beaten and left on death’s door on the streets of Red Deer. For both our families, time is measured by those events — things that happened before then, and things that happened after.

Lorinda Stewart’s account of the places she went to is common to all who experience violence. Degrees may vary, but I have no doubt the dark night of the soul settles on all who must face outrage and injustice. Rage, desire for revenge, questioning the goodness of both God and humanity, all these things arise.

At night just before sleep and at the grey hours before waking, thoughts bubble into consciousness that cause you to question your identity. Is this who I am now — a person who wants to punish, perhaps even kill? Am I losing my mind?

Stewart, to her credit, found her way out of the darkness, as every person must who wishes to be a human with integrity still intact.

She declares the way to regaining peace is through forgiveness of the people who did these unspeakable things to her daughter. I can attest that the way is not easy.

I believe that the darkness never really goes away. Maybe it’s always there, in all of us, waiting for an excuse to be released.

But as Stewart found, as I found, as many other people far more brave than me have found, it’s not darkness or light in your heart that defines you. It’s what you choose to do with it.

As angry as I was, I decided to volunteer at Potters Hand kitchen for about three years. I don’t know how many times I walked home after a 14-hour day wondering if I had cooked a good dinner, served it and washed up afterward for the person who tried to murder a member of my family. It turns out, after all those dinners, I hadn’t.

But for one’s own health, it is better to do this than to give in. It is better to build a network of community care for people who unjustly suffered severe injuries in the whole province than to seek revenge on the person who caused the one case known to you.

Stewart and Lindhout raise money for the Global Enrichment Foundation to support and educate Somali women so that they may be able to break the cycle of violence in their own lives.

It is easy to do good when all in life is good. It is a powerful thing, I believe, to do good to find a way out of darkness. For this, I am happy for Lorinda Stewart. It is better, in the light.

Greg Neiman is a retired Red Deer Advocate editor.