What forgiveness is

“No one’s need to be heard is so great that they should kill.”

– Jo Berry, Beyond Right & Wrong:  Stories of Justice and Forgiveness

But we were all too scared

I. Forgive. You.

Three little words.

One immense impact.

We have all been forgiven and been asked to forgive.  It is as vital to life as the beats of our hearts.  But I wonder: how far is its reach?  Does it slip into the back pews of churches?  Does it sleep in the annals of international cities? Does it accompany a murderer as he walks toward his death?  Does it take refuge in places we dare never go?

I have forgiven many things: the heartrending and the petty, the soul-stealing and the trivial.  But I have never forgiven another human being for killing someone I love.  I have never seen scarlet ribbons descend from their bodies or heard their terror-filled screams. I have never been put in that place and pray I never will.  But the people in the documentary Beyond Right & Wrong:  Stories of Justice and Forgiveness have.  They exhale the loss and pain of those whose loved ones were taken, and inhale the redemptive power of forgiveness.

Watch Beyond Right & Wrong for free

Jo and Pat

From left to right:  Jo Berry, Robi Damelin and Patrick Magee

From left to right: Jo Berry; Robi Damelin, spokesperson for The Parents Circle Tel Aviv; and Patrick Magee.  Image via http://www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org

Jo Berry, founder of Building Bridges for Peace, is one such person.  Her father, Sir Anthony Berry, was one of five killed in the October 12, 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England.  Patrick Magee, the IRA soldier who planted the bomb, served 14 years in prison and was released in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.  The two met for the first time in November 2000.

Pat has said this about Jo:

Well, one thing that, um, hit me, uh, after…I couldn’t tell you when exactly this happened.  You talked about your father and I got more a picture.  He was a human being, who had shaped you.  In other words, um, all the things that I admire in you came, in some measure, from your father <sil>. That means this was a fine human being <sil>.  And I killed him.

Berry and Magee have since shared a platform upwards of 100 times.  They work together to encourage non-violence and to opt for dialog and reconciliation versus revenge and retaliation.  While their interactions are not easy, Berry is learning “to give up blame and choose empathy.”

Bassam and Rami

Bassam on the left.  Rami on the right.  Image via www.the guardian.com

Bassam on the left. Rami on the right. Image via http://www.theguardian.com

Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian Muslim, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew and son of a Holocaust survivor, both lost their daughters.  Abir Aramin was standing outside her school when she was shot by an Israeli soldier.  She was 10.  Smadar Elhanan was walking to get books with two friends in Jerusalem when she crossed paths with two suicide bombers.  She was 14.

Image courtesy of Rami Elhanan via www.972mag.com

Image courtesy of Rami Elhanan via http://www.972mag.com

Their fathers are now members of Combatants for Peace, a movement of Palestinians and Israelis who were once dedicated fighters and now seek to end the conflict through dialogue and non-violence.

“We have both lost our daughters,” Rami says.  “We both paid the highest price possible.  Our blood is the same color.  Our pain in exactly the same pain and our tears are just as bitter.”

Bassam adds:

Abir’s murder could have led me down the easy path of hatred and vengeance, but for me there was no return from dialogue and non-violence. After all, it was one Israeli soldier who shot my daughter, but one hundred former Israeli soldiers who built a garden in her name at the school where she was murdered.

Bassam and Rami remain friends and have worked on a project documenting their lives, losses and steps toward peace.  It is called Within the Eye of the Storm: When Enemies Turn to Brothers.

Beata and Emmanuel

Beata Mukangarambe is a Rwandan genocide survivor; her five children are not.

Beata Mukangarambe_five children killed in genocide

“One day, a man came to see me…. He said, ‘Let me tell you something that makes me sad. I am the man who killed your children. Can you forgive me?’”

That man was Emmanuel Bamporiki.  He had just been released from prison after serving seven years for crimes committed in the genocide.  He spoke of his own personal pain.  Of being haunted by those he killed.  Of hearing the voices of children screaming for their mothers as they were chased down by men wielding machetes.

Beata collapsed.

Emmanuel went to beg her forgiveness three more times.  When she finally accepted these were her words to him:

“I have forgiven you.  I will never be angered by you again.  If you have a bicycle, do give me a lift.  If I have something that you do not have, I’ll share.  That is all.”

The lesson

Forgiveness does not erase the past.  It does not equal permission and does not mean you agree with the offender or his offense.  It means that you release him from judgment and release yourself from bitterness, hatred, and revenge.  Forgiveness is recognition that among our human complexities is our ability to do both good and evil, house both good and evil.  But that evil does not make us inhuman.  It makes us imperfect.

When I wake in the morning, I remind myself of who I could be:

I could be Israeli with eyes the color of sea glass and waist-length hair.  I could be a skinhead.  I could be a Tutsi child with legs like dandelion stems and a swollen belly.  I could be a terrorist ready to die for my cause.  I could be your sister, your mother, your enemy.  I could be you.  And you?  You could be me.

And if instead of backing away in fear, I walk forward, extend my hand and place it over your heart, its rhythm would feel the same as mine would to you.

Two hearts.  One heart.

One human heart.

With one message: forgive.



Building Bridges for Peace.  WordPress. 2014. Web. 28 July 2014. <http://www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org&gt;

Spottiswoode, R. (Director), & Singh, L. (Producer). (2012). Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness [Documentary]. United States: Article 19 Films.

Within the Eye of the Storm. n.p. n.d.  Web. 2 August 2014.  <http://www.withineyeofstorm.com&gt;

  One thought on “What forgiveness is

  1. August 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Dani, I believe passionately in the power of forgiveness. I also believe it requires repentance on the part of the offender. And now your post stirs up a maelstrom of thoughts, and I am not sure where they will settle. But I do know that you have been given avery special gift and that you are developing and sharing that gift in a way that transforms lives and thoughts. Thank you!

    • August 6, 2014 at 1:46 am

      Stephen, I’m so glad we’ve been able to discuss this further and look forward to future conversations. You are a treasured friend and I thank you for your willingness to listen and consider. I promise to always do the same.


  2. August 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Deep and powerful, Dani. And so needed in a world spinning out of control with violence and revenge.

    I, too, organize my closet by colors and length, a beautiful rainbow, and wish the world were so easy to harmonize..

    • August 6, 2014 at 1:51 am

      Thank you so much, Jane. And “Amen” to your closet comment. I wish it were as simple, as well.

      Much love to you, friend,

  3. August 3, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    This was so beautiful and well-written with a powerful message. I loved the stories and the missions of the people you outlined, but I loved most the simpler part of what’s so important and stands out to me: “I have forgiven many things: the heartrending and the petty, the soul-stealing and the trivial.” In all levels of hurt, it’s so important to forgive. If not to free the other, but to free oneself. So good. xo

    • August 6, 2014 at 1:55 am

      Michelle, I just loved your comment. Thank you for understanding the heart of my message and for truly hearing me.

      Many blessings to you,

  4. August 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Oh Dani…just oh.



    Yes to what you wrote, but oh so blind-sided…

    and stuff stirred up long settled down and in place.

    One insight: at a salient and traumatic point in my life, confronted with the choice to forgive or hold on, Lady Grace told me that if I chose to forgive, what I forgave would never be held aught against the offender…that he would never be asked about it, even on judgement day, if I forgave him…such was the power of forgiveness…

    …well, for a heartbeat there was a burst of red fury-driven desire for vengenace. But then, quick-silver whistle moment later came the realization that if I forgave, and he also forgave, and if those who had hurt him forgave, and the ones who hurt those people forgave, and so on and so on, then on that day…

    …there would be nothing to forgive, as all was already gone and cast as far away as the east is from the west!

    I couldn’t deal in fast enough!!

    (and yeah, it still hurts, and yeah I still cry, and yeah I still say those words, talismans of awesome towering power, each and every time I consider those events…of that time…


    Don’t know how ya do it SIs, but ya did it again.

    Love and deepest respect,

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:00 am

      What a beautiful comment, Charissa. I’m so glad you were able to break those chains and walk forward in love…for yourself.

      Much love to you, my gracious friend.
      Much love.

  5. August 3, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Whoopsie…left off the end parenthesis…and mis spelled Sis. Oh well…good thing this post is on forgiving! lol

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:02 am

      You’re too funny 🙂

  6. August 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I personally, deeply, forgive everyone who has trespassed against me as I too have trespassed against others…

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:06 am

      I’m so glad you’ve been able to do so, Krissy.

      Thank you for your comment and your time.

      Blessings to you,

  7. August 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I have forgiven people who have harmed me directly but I’ve never been in a situation where I had to forgive a person who hurt someone I love. That feels more difficult and I hope I never have to find out if it is. This is such a beautiful and painful post, especially with all that’s going on in the world. Thank you for sharing these links, Dani.

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:14 am

      Karen, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It truly means so much as many shy away from longer posts.

      I believe you are right, forgiving trespasses against those we love may be harder than forgiving offenses against ourselves. And I also hope I don’t have to find out if it’s true, but I suppose I will, as life has a way of marching us toward things that stretch and scare.

      My prayer is that I won’t offer simple lip-service when the time comes, but that I will truly forgive from the inside to the outside.

      Peace to you,

  8. Danielle de Luca
    August 4, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I’d like to say, that,s point it’svery hardware to talking about. The “Lourdes letter” days that the words it’s finishing because the Russian’s country is not been take care about. I thing your text in this time it’s the most point difficult for talking about and you did. Congratulazioni !!!!!!! Beijos!!!!

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:17 am

      Thank you for commenting, irma. I appreciate your words and heart.

      Com carinho,

  9. August 4, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Wow. Dani, your depth of feeling and willingness to share continue to inspire us to rise above the noisy world of distraction. You, my dear, are an angel of love. I love you, my friend, and cannot wait to see you – soon!!!

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:19 am

      And you are an angel of kindness, Ginny. Thank you for your beautiful words.

      Can’t wait to see you, lovely,

  10. August 4, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    What a beautifully written post! Dani, your heartbeat is so evident. Thank you for the reminder that forgiveness is always worth the investment! love, Gracie

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:23 am

      Gracie, I am truly touched that you took the time to read and comment. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to speak words of truth and that they are heard.

      With heart,

  11. August 6, 2014 at 2:53 am

    What a timely post considering the violence around our world. I was pulled in by your words and pushed out of my petty unforgivenesses by the acts of the heroes you wrote about. The extraordinary thing is that we can all be heroes of forgiveness if we just give up the right to hurt someone else (and in doing so we give up hurting ourselves). Thank you for an uplifting and informative post!

    • August 11, 2014 at 2:33 am

      What a kind comment. Thank you so much.



  12. August 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    WOW! Intense. Your posts always make me think, and think hard. I have to admit that in certain situations, I find it hard to forgive. I really want to learn how as I feel that I cannot do it on my own for one particular situation. Always look forward to your posts! Love you……Sherry!

    • August 11, 2014 at 2:23 am

      I think it’s being open to it, Sherry. But it’s still challenging, even when we want to forgive.

      Thank you for being a part of this.

      You are loved, friend.


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