By Henrylito D. Tacio
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free,” wrote American minister Catherine Ponder, who founded the Unity Church Worldwide.
I am not sure if Bob Hoover, a famous test pilot and frequent performer at air shows in the United States, heard of the statement, but he surely lived up to it. In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie shared this story:
“Bob Hoover was returning to his home in Los Angeles from an air show in San Diego. As described in the magazine Flight Operations, at 300 feet in the air, both engines suddenly stopped. By deft maneuvering, he managed to land the plane, but it was badly damaged, although nobody was hurt.
“Hoover’s first act after the emergency landing was to inspect the airplane’s fuel. Just as he suspected, the World War II propeller plane he had been flying had been fuelled with jet fuel rather than gasoline.
“Upon returning to the airport, he asked to see the mechanic who had serviced his airplane. The young man was sick with the agony of his mistake. Tears streamed down his face as Hoover approached. He had just caused the loss of a very expensive plane and could have caused the loss of three lives as well.
“You can imagine Hoover’s anger. One could anticipate the tongue-lashing that this proud and precise pilot would unleash for that carelessness. But Hoover didn’t scold the mechanic; he didn’t even criticise him. Instead, he put his big arm around the man’s shoulder and said, ‘To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”
After reading this incident, I was reminded of the words of Robert Muller, an international civil servant with the United Nations. “To forgive,” he said, “is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
Forgiveness and peace seem to go together – like cart and carriage. “Let us forgive each other,” urged Leo Tolstoy, a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, “only then will we live in peace.”
Hollywood actor and rapper Will Smith agrees. “Throughout life will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad,” said the actor who had been nominated twice for the Best Actor Oscar (2002’s Ali and 2007’s The Pursuit of Happyness). “Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you, too.”
It is only those who are weak who could never forgive the wrongdoings of other people. “Forgiveness,” said Mahatma Gandhi, “is the attribute of the strong.” And “true forgiveness,” said American television host Oprah Winfrey, “is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’”
If you have read the information about her posted on Wikipedia, you know she’s talking from experience. Born into poverty in rural Mississippi, she was molested by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend when she was nine years old. At 13, after suffering what she described as years of abuse, she ran away from home. When she was 14, she became pregnant, but her son was born prematurely, and he died shortly after birth. She reportedly “felt betrayed” by the family member who had sold the story of her son to the National Enquirer in 1990.
Looking back on these ordeals, she could say now, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different, it’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.”
This must be the reason why she is so blessed. With a net worth of $800 million, Winfrey is believed to be the richest African American of the 20th century. In 2006, she was the highest-paid TV entertainer in the United States, earning an estimated $260 million during the year.
Winfrey was able to forgive her family. Here’s another story on family forgiveness, which was written by a certain Robert C. Tuttle: In his night prayer, the six-year-old stopped before his brother’s name and said to his mother, “I don’t think I’ll ask God to bless Joe. He gave me an awful punch in the nose today.”
“But you’ve got to forgive your enemies,” the mother reminded him. “But,” countered the little boy, “that’s just the trouble: he’s NOT my enemy. And that’s why I can’t forgive him.”
How true it is that it is harder to forgive one’s friends than one’s enemies. Or as Sir Francis Bacon once said, “We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends.”
A similar case happened in another family. The three children had gotten into a loud disagreement just before they went off to bed. They were aroused at two in the morning by a terrible thunderstorm.
Hearing an unusual noise from the bedroom, the mother went up to see what was going on. All the children were out of bed and hidden in the dark clothes closet. And from the inside, a little voice told her, “We’re all afraid, and we’re hidden here in the dark, forgiving each other.”
Perhaps one of the worst things a man or woman can do to himself or herself is not forgiving oneself. “To me, one of the saddest mistakes we make is a lack of forgiveness, especially to ourselves,” wrote Richard Carlson in his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work.
“We constantly remind ourselves of our flaws and previous mistakes,” Carlson continued. “We anticipate future mistakes. We’re highly critical of ourselves, frequently disappointed, and ruthless in our self-judgement. We badger and blame ourselves, and often we’re our own worst enemy.”
American moral and social philosopher Eric Hoffer said it well: “The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbour as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.”