Opinion: Grudges are self-defeating, forgiveness prevails



Sarahbeth Caplin

While I was at a hostel in Ireland, I found out about the Arizona shootings from a link someone posted on Facebook. Almost as shocking as the event itself were some of the comments that readers left on the article. “The shooter should rot in hell,” one of them said. Others went on to describe all kinds of heinous tortures that should be inflicted on someone callous enough to shoot a child, let alone a crowd of innocent people. Some comments that suggested forgiving the shooter were met with responses declaring some people too evil to deserve such mercy.

Many people equate forgiveness with excusing poor behavior. The truth is that holding on to anger is emotionally crippling and robs you of the chance to heal from tragedy. That’s not to say that it isn’t natural to grieve. It’s perfectly understandable to have rage. However, holding onto it for a lifetime and still hoping to heal is like gorging on cupcakes daily and still expecting to lose weight. Refusing to forgive someone who has wronged you only gives them permission to dominate your life.

Forgiving isn’t easy; it may be the most difficult and painful thing you ever do. I’ll even go as far as saying that forgiveness is an unnatural act because it contradicts everything we think we know about justice. Because revenge is a knee-jerk reaction to being hurt, many people hold sacred the “eye for an eye” philosophy. It may seem fair that whatever evil a person commits must in turn be done to them, but refusing to forgive also robs the offender of the opportunity for repentance.

When someone learns from a past mistake, they most likely don’t want their indiscretions held against them. As naïve as it may sound, I still believe redemption is possible for even the worst of offenses. If anyone feels shame for the things they have done, withholding forgiveness only perpetuates the cycle of hatred that causes violence in the first place.

If we adamantly refuse to practice forgiveness, we must then question what kind of world we want to live in. We also can’t rely on our feelings to decide when forgiveness is appropriate; if we do, we will remain emotionally stuck. Forgiveness must be a conscious choice, the way loving a difficult relative is a choice. The demonstration of unmerited compassion changes lives, something I have witnessed firsthand.

Holding a grudge against the Arizona shooter won’t bring his victims back. Don’t allow hatred and bitterness to have the upper hand in your life. It’s a waste of valuable energy that only results in more unnecessary destruction.

Sarahbeth Caplin is a senior English major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].