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Forgiveness: A virtue and a puzzle

Bitterness is a burden, it obstructs you from being the best, most loving person that you can be. The ability to forgive is a virtue. I often hope to consistently possess that virtue, both for the ‘little’ hurts and the ‘great’ ones. Despite my realization that the ability to forgive is a virtue, I struggle to understand how some people are able to forgive specific wrongs that others did against them.

During the weekend, I saw the report that Rubin ‘‘Hurricane’’ Carter has died. You may want to familiarize yourself with the late ex-boxer’s story here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/rubin-hurricane-carter-dead-at-76-1.2616026 I will give you a short but important summary of Carter’s life. He was an ex-boxer who was in prison for 19 years for a crime that he was innocent of. The imprisonment cut short his somewhat promising boxing career. Amongst the people who advocated for Carter’s release from prison were “a group of Canadians”, and Rubin Carter who was born in America settled in Canada after his release from prison. After getting out of imprisonment, Carter became an “advocate for the wrongly convicted …”). He was consistent with this work till his death at the age 76 in Toronto on April 20th, 2014. On his deathbed, he made known his wish that a hearing would be given to David McCullam, who has been imprisoned for 28 years. Carter believed that McCullam is innocent of the crime that he is being convicted of. I do hope that the wish gets granted.

It is unpleasing to think of what a day in prison would be like. Just one day. Then how about 19 years? What an exile. An exile from the love of family, friends, an exile from independence, an exile from gainful opportunities, an exile from freedom. Rubin’s exile was different, he was innocent, not unlike a lot of other convicts and ex-convicts though. His career was cut short just for him to be in a restricting cell, away from the luxuries of fame, again, away from freedom, to be trapped in the perils of bondage for 19 years. After Rubin Carter finally gained freedom, he began a pursuit. Not a pursuit for revenge, but a pursuit for justice for those who were convicted of crimes that they did not commit. A pursuit for redemption for near-martyrs of false accusation. What a heart.

I am not trying to make comparisons here. It’s okay to say that I am just too patriotic to Canada, but I must point out that Canada has a living public example of forgiveness by name, Orlando Bowen. His football career ended when he was brutally attacked by two police officers who had falsely accused him of possessing cocaine. Bowen was later found to be innocent of drug possession (Read story here: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/03/30/football_player_who_was_beaten_by_cops_pens_letter_of_forgiveness.html) He is now a motivational speaker, and also a youth mentor through the One Voice One Team organization, in Toronto.

Forgiveness is difficult, and sometimes very difficult, but it paves the way for love to set in. Bitterness is what sets in when you block every thought of forgiveness. Bitterness will affect even those who love and support you. It’s hard to think that individuals like Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Orlando Bowen would have been positive influences in society, if the inhumane and unjust treatments they received left them bitter.

Don’t fake forgiveness. Work towards it. Think positive every time the negative thoughts come up. Realize that you deserve true happiness within, so don’t let someone’s hurtful words and/or actions make you look down on yourself. Let go of hate and anger, and let your love and positive light keep you and others in need of soul-strengthening, strong. Also, just as forgiveness is a virtue, so are honesty and compassion. Causing people unnecessary suffering is a terrible thing to do.

My questions for you

– What does forgiveness mean to you?

– Who are the people that have motivated you to forgive?

Let me know!

Love,

Chiamaka Mogo.

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