Why Forgive? - Johann Christoph Arnold (Plough Publishing House, 2000)

Forgiveness is a door to peace and happiness. It is a small, narrow door, and cannot be entered without stooping. It is also hard to find. But no matter how long the search, it can be found. -- Johann Christoph Arnold

Bitterness is more than a negative outlook on life. It is a destructive and self-destructive power. Like a dangerous mold or spore, it thrives in the dark recesses of the heart and feeds on every new thought of spite or hatred that comes our way. -- Johann Christoph Arnold

I once had a very close friend. She seduced me and we became lovers. I fell hopelessly head-over-heals in love with her. Then one day she walked away, walked out of my life forever, never to be seen again. No explanation, no warning. We were both very happy together. I had let her get close, I trusted her. People, friends, acquaintances, told her how much I was suffering, but she did not care. In many ways that she could leave me to suffer and not care hurt more than the original hurt. Many months later our paths briefly crossed. As she passed me her eyes burned with hatred. What I have done wrong, what sin I have committed, I still do not know, may never know.

I have lost everything - a wonderful girlfriend, my closest friend. The pain is unbearable, my tortured soul screams out everyday. They say time heals but it doesn't. The pain gnaws away at my soul, slowly leaching away the life spirit. It would be easy to feel bitter, to hate, but I don't. I love her too much. All I want is to take her into my arms, hug her, gaze into her warm brown eyes and for us both to seek each others forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and the pain and suffering we have caused each other, to say we are sorry, to recover the close friendship that once meant so much so much to us both.

Why Forgive? is about people who have suffered, who have been caused deep pain, who in spite of their suffering have somehow found inside themselves the will to forgive.

When the notorious murderer Karla Faye Tucker was executed Ron Carlson could have had a privileged seat reserved for those baying for blood, instead he chose to sit in the area reserved for the family of the executed. Ron Carlson was family, but not of Karla Faye Tucker, he was family of one of the victims.

Ron Carlson was a junkie and a heavy drinker before his sister was killed. He and his sister Deborah were close, she raised him as a kid. His mother died when he was young, he had no other brothers and sisters other than Deborah. He first learned of her death when he got a phone call from his father, he still couldn't believe it when on TV he saw her body being carried out of an apartment. Deborah was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her body was riddled with wounds from a pickax, the pickax was left embedded in her heart.

When Karla and her partner Daniel Ryan Garret (who subsequently died in prison) were caught and sentenced to death Ron felt no relief:

I was glad they were caught of course, but I wanted to to kill them myself. I was filled with hatred, and I wanted to get even. I wanted to bury that pickax in Karla's heart, just like she had buried it in my sister's.

A short time later Ron's father was shot and killed. Ron sank into an oblivion of drugs and booze. All he felt was hate, he wanted to kill himself, kill and destroy everything and everyone around him. He was heading down the same path as those who had killed his sister and father. Then one day in a drugged haze he started to read the Bible. When he got to the crucifixion it reinforced his hatred 'My God, they even killed Jesus.'

Eventually he read more and when he got to the Lord's Prayer the words 'forgive us as we forgive' leapt out at him. He couldn't forgive, never, but God spoke to him and told him that through Him he could forgive.

Ron went to see Karla and told her he forgave her. He then befriended her and became a regular visitor for the next two years. He learnt that her mother had been a junkie and a prostitute, had introduced Karla to drugs at an early age, that Karla was shooting drugs from the age of ten. Karla could not understand Ron, she found it easier to understand those who were braying for her death. Through Ron she found forgiveness. Ron did not wish to see her executed, one more death did not bring Deborah back to life.

Johann Christoph Arnold has brought together a collection of tales of people like Karla and Ron, people who have suffered hurt and pain, where hatred and bitterness has been overcome by finding the inner strength to forgive. Tales that bring tears to the eyes.

It is easy to hate, hatred is an easy palliative, it is what society expects. In the short term hatred may appear to ease the pain, in the long term it reinforces the pain, drags us down into the abyss. The only way to obtain release from the pain is to find the will to forgive. It is only through forgiveness that we can find peace of mind.

I can only hope my friend Julie reads Why Forgive? and finds the will to forgive.

Highly recommended, especially for those who are feeling the pain and bitterness of some past hurt.

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(c) Keith Parkins 2000 -- September 2000 rev 0