Forgiveness ultimate lesson in selflessness

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

When it’s given it appears to be a precious gift to the recipient — forgiveness may be one of the most liberating things the giver can do for themselves, however.

Forgiveness goes against our stingy human nature. We want to hang onto things — and grudges and perceived wrongs are especially are hard to let go of for most of us.

People in Roosevelt County District Court got a lesson in forgiveness Wednesday from a family, in particular a daughter, who has lost both of her parents in a brutal homicide two years ago.

Vickie Dixon told her cousin Jerry Wayne Fuller she would never forget what he had done in killing her parents, Odis and Doris Newman. The last things she told him that day were that she forgave him and wanted him to have a Bible so that he might find forgiveness from God.

There were very few dry eyes when the court hearing was over Wednesday — even big tough police officers were wiping away tears by the time the family and friends of the Newmans had finished speaking.
Family arguments, business dealings gone sour, competitors in athletic events even an irate customer who gets under your skin can fester into big problems.

Families are split and estranged for years because no one can swallow their pride enough to take that first step of saying I forgive you. Much of the time we can’t even give up the wrong in our own minds — let alone express it to someone.

I’ve worked for people who wouldn’t forgive and forget and sooner or later half the town would be mad enough they wouldn’t do business with the company. Most customers have pretty short memories and they’ll only stay mad at a business person until the next time they need the goods or service or until the offer becomes too good to resist.

Athletic teams that get past a stinging loss from an opponent, even when it came under unfortunate circumstances of a poor call, poor sportsmanship or injury are the teams that move forward to great things. The memory of the loss doesn’t have to be forgotten, but the individual participants on the other side need to be forgiven to move forward and excel.

We’ve probably all experienced family strife and arguments and after nearly 25 years of marriage I’ve learned myself that getting mad is inevitable, forgiving and moving on is what sustains a marriage or family relationship.

The Bible is full of examples of forgiveness. In the Old Testament Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery in Egypt and helped them weather a famine.

In the New Testament Stephen was persecuted for preaching the Gospel and stoned to death. Just before he died he forgave those throwing the stones.

As Jesus hung on the cross, the Bible says he asked God to forgive the Roman soldiers who were casting lots for his belongings while he suffered. He also forgave the criminals hanging next to him on Calvary for the wrongs they had done.

When we recite the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do we really mean it when we say it? Can we put it into action?

I can’t think of any harder forgiveness to offer than to someone who had murdered my parents or my wife. I don’t know if I would be able to pass that test myself and I certainly wouldn’t fault anyone who didn’t. But after seeing that example in the courtroom I’m going to work a lot harder on forgiveness myself.

Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481, ext 33 or e-mail:
karl_terry@link.freedom.com