Set free by forgiving others
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
David Irvine, Cochrane-based guru in authentic leadership, hosted his Dec. 15 webinar on the timely theme, “Tis the Season for Healing, Caring, and Forgiving.” His special guest was our Calgary coffee companion, author/speaker Annette Stanwick, who knows a lot about forgiveness as key to inner healing and peace.
David set the stage for the webinar by quoting South Africa’s anti-apartheid activist and first president, Nelson Mandela. Upon his release from his unjust 27-years imprisonment, rather than seeking revenge, Mandela said:
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead me to freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Yes, David noted, how we deal with the injustices in our own lives will have a major impact on us, too. And this is where his definition of forgiveness became front-and-centre: “Forgiveness is the journey to freedom through the suffering of injustice,” he said. “It’s an inside job. Ultimately, it’s about letting go.”
To provide a vivid firsthand account of her own journey to inner freedom through forgiveness, David called on Annette Stanwick to speak about her inner struggles following the murder of her brother and how forgiveness liberated her troubled soul (detailed in her 2008 book, Forgiveness: the Mystery and Miracle).
When Travis (the murderer) and his four accomplices were brought to the courtroom for sentencing, Annette was invited to make a victim impact statement. But to her own amazement, she was her own first audience.
“When my brother Soren was murdered, I never dreamed I would feel led by God to forgive his killer,” she said. “I was angry! It had been 18 months with no answers.”
One night she heard the Voice. “I love your brother’s murderer as much as I love you and as much as I love your brother.” The next morning, she was a different woman.
An avid motorcyclist, Annette put on many miles in prayerful probing and processing. The words, “forgive them; they didn’t know what they were doing,” kept going over in her mind. Her response? “Make me willing and make it possible.”
At the trial, after speaking of the enormous hole the murderer had left in her brother’s family and of how she herself struggled with the senseless atrocity, she looked into the murderer’s eyes and said:
“Travis, I want you to know that the most important impact of this whole experience for me is that God has given me a new understanding of love and forgiveness.
“Travis, God has impressed me that He doesn’t love what you did, but He loves you in spite of what you have done. He loves you with a love that will never end and He longs to show you that love. He loves you just as much as He loves me and just as much as He loves my brother Soren. There is nothing so deep, so dark and so horrible, that He cannot and will not forgive. And He longs to forgive you for what you have done, Travis.
“Here in the quietness of this moment I am offering God’s love and forgiveness to you, Travis,” she said, and then added, “and I am also offering you my forgiveness.”
From that moment on, Annette became an instrument of healing for many. “I was free,” she said. “I had made the choice to release my grip on the anger, the bitterness, the resentment, and the hatred. And forgiveness – the miracle of forgiveness – had changed me.”
© 2022 Warren Harbeck