“Forgiveness is a gift to oneself”
So said Richard Moore, on recently broadcast UTV programme, ‘The Delai Lama’s hero.’
Impressively, the show’s title was derived from the eminent spiritual leader telling the Derry man he regarded him as “his good friend and hero.”
And forgiveness is certainly a subject that Moore, the founder of the charity, Children in Crossfire, is qualified to discuss.
At the age of 10, he was shot with a rubber bullet by a British soldier stationed in Derry. Despite this leading to his complete blindness, he forgave the soldier involved, Charles Innes, and they have since met and developed a relationship Moore describes as a “process” of understanding.
For me, his words represent a profound statement. It is true that while forgiveness gives to ‘the agressor’, it also gives ‘the victim’ the freedom to stop internally regurgitating the events of the past. Forgiving allows the individual affected to reclaim control over the events that have formed the substance of their lives. To paraphrase Moore’s words: “If he wants my forgiveness, he can have it – he has it, but I chose to forgive.”
As a child growing up in Northern Ireland, interviews with sobbing mothers in fadded little living rooms on some unknown-but-instantly-familiar backstreet, became habitualised. Their somehow urchin-like faces, screwed up in pain, would annunciate chillingly through shrill tears: “I’ll never be able to forgive them for what they’ve done to this family – never.”
Personally, I have never had to deal with suffering on this extreme level. I have never known their grief and so cannot say how I’d react in the same situation. From an outsiders’ perspective however, forgiveness seems to be the only way forward; because if you feel hate, inevitably all you will perpetuate is hate. As the irritatingly glib expression goes, ‘hurt people hurt.’ And while it’s glib and annoying, that doesn’t change the fact it’s true.
Or as the singer and songwriter Damien Dempsey put it: “your hatred for them will chew you up and spit you out.” Admittedly this lyric from the song ‘Colony’ wasn’t used in the context of forgiveness, so you can disregard it here as irrelevant if you wish. Yet it nevertheless describes how an obsession with hatred is in fact a powerful form of self-harm.
Moving away from Moore’s indentification with the troubles, on a much more annodine level, probably many more of us (myself included) can emphasise with the difficulty of forgiving an ex with whom relations have become less than cordial. As the well-honed cliché goes, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Or a man, for that matter! And like all good clichés, it’s attained it’s oft-quoted status for an obvious reason; it’s right.
Speaking for myself, I can easily indentify with anyone who has felt capable of cheerfully ripping the head off their ex in a spot of early morning sport before breakfast.
But as many a magazine and so-called ‘self help guide’ with heartwarming titles such as ‘He’s just not that into you’ (like, thanks!) will reveal – the best revenge you can have is to not waste a further second of your precious time pondering the scumbag/ scumbaguetta any longer. Instead, they inform us that going on to lead an utterly fabulous life (sans that loser, snarf!) is more satisfying than fufulling even your most potent retribution fantasy.
Believe me, I can also emphasise with those of you who read this sort of mulsh and automatically think ‘Yup, nice thought. Now, how exactly can I get that kipper inserted into the Spawn of Satan’s curtain rail pole again?’
But let’s face it, after the obligatory copious flogging of Ben & Jerry’s down-into-you sesh, there’s little to be gained from thinking about your former flame through rose-tinted specs; tears streaming down your face. Afterall, it’s not hurting them, it’s only hurting you. Unless your ex happened to be Paul McKenna, there’s no way they’ll be able to read your thoughts and mentally chastise themselves for the pain they’ve occassioned.
So a much better idea appears to be concentrating on your own life, rather than fixating on someone else’s over which you have no control. What do you enjoy doing, what makes you happy? When you’ve decided, go and do it. Also, how you can bring a little more joy to other people – people who actually deserve it instead of ‘her who never called you back’?
One of my pet hates is single people who go on ad infinitum about their single status and their continuing misfortunes in failing to find the right person for them. But as I see it, instead of becoming a narcissistic – not to mention, boring – fool, why not do something to that brings some happiness to others rather than concentrating all your energy on the elusive ‘one’?
Afterall, the purpose of forgiveness is that it allows a positive outcome to emerge from a negative situation. Richard Moore undoubtedly suffered as a child, but how many lives of other emotionally and physically hurt children has he since enriched with hope for the future?
When Charles Innes fired that plastic bullet in what he believed was a routine operation, the blinding of a ten year old boy was an unintended consequence. Other unintended consequences included the founding of a charity that has helped many children pursue educational opportunities and lead lives they may have thought impossible, not to mention the young Moore going on to become the “Delai Lama’s hero.”
My point is not that Innes’ actions were in any way right. Simply that ‘victims’ aren’t powerless to interrupt the plot of their life for the better.