Stories of forgiveness bring healing, new beginnings

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 16, 2008

Following up on last week’s column on forgiveness, former Cochrane pastor Don Koots, now serving an Edmonton congregation, directed me to an amazing website full of amazing true-life stories of forgiveness that I hope everyone of our coffee companions will visit. But more about that in a minute. First, these responses:

From Cochrane, Kate Millar wrote regarding Annette Stanwick’s story of forgiveness:

I was brought to my knees by Annette's heartfelt impact statement to Travis Friend after the senseless murder of her brother, Soren. She is truly inspirational to me as I see the Lord in her and working through her. Had her heart not been open to His word I wonder where she would be today. Perhaps embittered and distraught, but she chose differently. We are called to love and forgive our enemies, a very difficult commandment to follow, but by Annette's example I pray for such an open heart within me to forgive those toward whom I bear grudges. Thank you, Annette, for your example and may God's continued presence lead you through your life's journey.

—Kate Millar, Cochrane

Several readers used the word “powerful” in their responses, as in this note from Cochrane coffee companion Marlis McDouall:

What a powerful column. My own belief system goes along those lines of forgiveness, too. Thankfully, I never had such an awful tragedy happen within my family and, consequently, not such an enormously important reason to forgive. To see that it is possible and that it comes with great rewards confirms my own belief. My hat goes off to Mrs. Stanwick. Her book will be read by me with great interest. Ideally we will learn from her experiences without having to go through them ourselves.

—Marlis McDouall, Cochrane

Okotoks coffee companion Tami Ali has allowed me to share with you her own very personal reflection on forgiveness:

Today I struggled and prayed about a wrong I have done, something I have done to people very, very close to me and my heart. In going through much self reflection recently, I am beginning to see the impact my choices made on them. I did not harm them physically, financially, mentally but I hurt their hearts deeply. For one year, I wanted these people to see, understand and maybe even accept why I made the choices I made. Today, I was overwhelmed with such shame and guilt I could hardly breathe. My shame is mine. My choices are mine. Then I asked for guidance to do what is right. How does one make restitution to others? I can forgive others. How do I ask others to forgive me? How does one live with the shame when others carry the pain? My behaviour changed with these people. I was fearful of them. I was sad when around them; nervous; worried; defensive. I read into small actions or words their rejection of me. Our relationship deteriorated even further.

Today I heard my Creator loves me still. In my awareness around the shame, my tears brought an acceptance from a Spirit where love is stronger than the shame, fear, rejection. It calmed my heart.

Thank you for the article. It has shown me where forgiveness does set us free. For me, today, it is about forgiving myself. Accepting where my life was at then. Accepting where I am today. Being willing to make restitution to others. Putting my past in perspective so I can be free to do the next right thing in this world. Thank you, Warren. Thank you, Annette.

—Tamara Ali, Okotoks

Tami’s concerns point to the importance of sharing our stories, which brings me back to Don Koots’ recommendation. He directed me to The Forgiveness Project (, a global initiative based in the United Kingdom.

The Forgiveness Project, according to its website, “is a charitable organization which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience.” In addition to its website, the project works in prisons, schools, churches and elsewhere to consider the power of forgiveness in both private and political contexts, something that has not escaped the notice of South Africa’s renowned forgiveness advocate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the project’s patrons.

I found it difficult to pull myself away from the many personal stories of forgiveness shared on the site. You will, too. So, pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee and sit down to your computer for a life-changing journey of healing and new beginnings.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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