Carol, 45, Newark, Delaware
She slammed her car into my husband's car. He suffered a brain injury, lost his job, our health insurance, our dream home, and his personality. He had to re-learn how to walk, how to make change for a dollar, how to use a cell phone.
At first, I was stuck in anger. Then I heard Oprah say "surrender." I surrendered to the situation, and realized that God had a plan for our family. I wrote the woman [who hit my husband] and told her what her actions had done to our family and that I had forgiven her. From that point, I was able to move on, to make the best of what we'd been dealt and to realize that even though the accident was a surprise to us, it was no surprise to God.
I started a company, Pike Creek Coffee, [through which] my husband began to regain his skills. The coffee bean is an analogy for our life. To make a good cup of coffee, a green bean has to be roasted at high temperatures, its outer layer removed and ground up [before] near-boiling water is poured over it. That's the hope I hang onto, believing that we will see that from the challenges of this accident, our family is better and stronger than before. And none of this would have been possible without forgiveness and surrender.
Donna, 60, Redway, California
My only daughter, Marcella, was raped and murdered in 1984 at the age of seven. It has been a journey of pain, hurt, sadness and finally the relief of forgiveness.
I said some things when Troy [the man who killed Marcella] was convicted that I thought I felt at the time. Through the journey, I have challenged my old beliefs (ignorance, biases, fears) and prayed and worked toward new ways. One is that of forgiveness. I was able to forgive Troy fairly early but not the adult Troy. Rather I forgave that frightened abused child that he was.
Troy sits on death row in San Quentin. I wrote a letter through the chaplain over a year ago stating my forgiveness and hope for Troy. I have not heard anything more.
I believe that forgiveness has allowed me to experience great joy in my life. I feel that I show great respect for my daughter's life through forgiveness. Even though we all have a path, I know for sure that we can help each other along the way. I am so impressed with those who can forgive immediately. I pray and take strength from the fact that it is humanly possible to do such a thing. It is my hope and prayer that as we know better, we can do better and the world and all of us in it will reap the rewards.
Crystal, 24, Arlington, Tennessee
I came home early from work to discover an extremely depressed, drunk and suicidal husband. Before this day, I was aware of his depression but not his severe alcohol abuse.
I checked him into the hospital where they told me his blood alcohol level was .39. I was shocked. I also found out that he had been drinking every day for at least two years behind my back. He stayed in the hospital for five days and is in intense outpatient therapy every evening after work.
Meanwhile, I feel like my life has been destroyed. I've been very angry with him. I've been trying to deal with the destruction he created in my life—wondering, was he drunk here; did he drive drunk and how he could do this to me?
I told [him] how important it was for him to acknowledge the pain he has caused and I recognized how holding onto the resentment and anger was tearing me apart, so I'm beginning my journey of forgiveness. I also had the most amazing weekend with a husband who seems like a different person who can become a present part of my life. I know it's only the beginning, but I feel like we are taking all the necessary steps to have a healthier relationship. Getting help was his first step and starting to forgive him was mine.
Briana, 30, Kansas City, Missouri
Everyone loved Mom. She was the fun, hip, beautiful woman. She had a smile that warmed your heart, a love that encompassed you, a laugh that filled the room, a courageous, beautiful spirit. I had just graduated from college when I [learned] that Mom had breast cancer. She was going to be fine. Other people died from cancer, but [not Mom.] I believed this and prayed like crazy. I was sure that someone was listening.
[The] cancer spread to her lungs. [During] long stays at the hospital, I [would] look at her thinking how could God do to this wonderful person? [When] she told me that she could not fight anymore, I laid my head in her lap and bawled like I have never cried before. What did my mom do? She comforted me! She stroked my hair and told me it would be okay. I hated God for doing this to us. She passed away later that month.
[A few years have passed and] I find myself talking to God …so I know he is back. I have forgiven him. I have also forgiven myself for my immature, selfish behavior [while Mom was ill]. My own forgiveness [was] one of my bigger struggles after Mom's death. In hindsight, it was in vain, because I know Mom…and I know I had already been forgiven.
Amy, 45, Cedar Park, Texas
It was November 3, 2006—a normal day in Austin, Texas. With car windows down, sunroof open and fall sunlight streaming in, I was waiting at an intersection not far from my home. Within seconds my life changed.
A man approached the passenger side of my car, stuck a .357 magnum in the window and demanded my car. As I got out of the car, he pulled the trigger. The bullet entered my chest inches from my heart, punctured my right lung, grazed my liver and broke two ribs as it exited my body. It's a very long story from here on. Eight days in the hospital. Doctors shaking their heads, saying it was a miracle I was alive. Then the weeks of police work until the [alleged] shooter was caught.
Have I forgiven him? Of course. I have been forgiven, so I forgive. The size of the trespass matters not. I want to be fully healed and not suffer emotional and spiritual consequences from bitterness and un-forgiveness. I want to model for my children what it means to rise above personal tragedy and grow from it. I had a hole next to my heart. It's healing. He has a hole in his heart that led him to a life of crime. It is my prayer that through forgiveness and that age-old song of redemption, that hole in his heart is healed someday.
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