NZ Herald 24 December 2018
It has been said that if we collected up all the goodwill and festive spirit we exhibit during the Christmas season, put it in a bottle and released a bit of it each day of the year, the world would be a better place to live.
We seem to be ready to forgive and seek reconciliation more readily during this time than at any other.
We make that extra effort to get together with and enjoy the company of other family members and friends. We even manage to somehow forgive the people who normally rub us up the wrong way – people who push in line, who leave the toilet roll empty, who let their little kids go wild in shops, even people who sit in the fast lane doing 60km/h – well, almost.
Forgiveness may not be easy, but it’s also not an F-word. What we may not understand is that it’s not only good for the recipient, it may actually be exactly what we need.
Author and theologian Lewis B Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover the prisoner was you”.
It’s easy to pull a newly planted tree out of the ground but once it’s had time to grow and take root, a fully grown tree is that much harder to remove. If we don’t deal with inforgiveness and anger today, tomorrow it becomes bitterness, associated with negative emotion, stress and thoughts of revenge.
An example of this is Debbie Morris, the author of Forgiving the Dead Man Walking, the counterpart to the 1995 award-winning movie Dead Man Walking.
At age 16, Debbie and her boyfriend were abducted at gunpoint by Robert Willie and Joe Vaccaro. Her boyfriend was led into deserted woods, tortured, shot, and left for dead. Debbie was repeatedly raped by her captors. They both survived their ordeal, but Willie ended up on death row awaiting execution for the murder of another woman he had killed only days before – the basis of the movie Dead Man Walking.
Yet Debbie says, “I think that many times people in my situation think that justice is what is going to heal them – and I thought that … and I was disappointed time after time … Justice is not what heals us and it was not what healed me.
“I realised that there is no such thing as justice on this earth for what that man did … When I was able to forgive, not only did the hate, the anger and the pain go away, but the shame did too.”
Justice depends on the effectiveness of the legal system. Offenders also have to deal with their own conscience, the legacy of their life, and their judgment to come.
The movie industry knows us well and feeds our natural desire for revenge.
Take any action movie you have seen. The very basic theme is “good person” versus “evil person”, and the final scene, after the evil person has been really evil, is the goodie walking away from a scene of pandemonium, fire, and destruction where the baddie has just been violently killed – the more violent, the better.
That’s why forgiveness is so hard, it goes against the grain.
Mahatma Gandhi said “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Yet we recall the line from the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Forgiveness comes back to us.
We can live in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness.
As Smedes says, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited”.
Stuff co.nz 19 June 2018 Family First Comment: “Parliaments around the world consistently reject bills like this one, because they recognise that the risks are simply too great. Even the most tightly restricted version of this bill would see people slip through the cracks—people who are misdiagnosed, who feel like a burden, who aren’t caught by the safeguards. Their deaths would be wrongful deaths—wrong according to the bill’s own criteria.” Protect.org.nz
OPINION: Parliament has started hearing submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill, and if the last round of submissions is anything to go by, they’ll hear a lot of opposition.
In response, MPs may be tempted to think they can fix the bill – narrowing the scope, tightening the wording, maybe limiting it to terminal illness and ditching the current provision for grievous and irremediable medical conditions. But in reality, even the safest version of this bill would be dangerous.
This is a hard thing to say and to hear, when there are many stories of suffering and pain that each of us will hope we never have to go through. Both sides of the debate are motivated by compassion and concern for the vulnerable. No-one is coming at this with the intent to harm, but good intentions are not enough.
Researching the international law and experience in places like Oregon, Washington State, Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands, shows four main issues with even a restricted version of the bill.
First, the eligibility criteria would be broad. Even if limited to people with a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months, doctors acknowledge that prognosis is more art than science. Oregon has a provision like this, but their official reports show that in 2017, somewhere between one and 14 people who were prescribed lethal drugs went on to live longer than their six-month prognosis.