“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Ghandi
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another.” – Jesus Christ
“Hatred is never ended by hatred, but by love alone. This is an eternal law.” – Buddha
Emma Woods, voted this week as New Zealander of the Year, embodies all the above qualities, and what Christmas is really about. She found the courage to move through her grief and anger to a place where she found forgiveness by getting to know the teenager who lost control of his car, causing it to mount a footpath and kill her four-year-old son in front of her.
And she was able to do this in the face of an angry backlash earlier this year against boy racers, when our government passed a bill to crush their cars for blatantly violating laws and not paying fines.
In light of this, it is not surprising that Emma Wood’s remarkable act of forgiveness stunned New Zealanders, for deeply embedded within our culture is a payback mentality of “an eye for an eye,” perhaps best exemplified this week by a blatant violation of human rights. A punitive Bill has now been passed which places a blanket voting ban on any convicted prisoner who is incarcerated on election day – regardless of their offence.
If we all followed her example and crossed the line to see crimes and tragedies and violence from the perpetrators point of view, we might discover the multi-faceted conditions that create violators of the law. In this way we could explore ways to change these conditions and help them change their behaviour to prevent a ripple effect of harm.
Emma Woods has shown us that making a decision to let go of anger and bitterness, we can heal and be at peace through compassion and forgiveness. It depends, however, upon whether we have the courage to let go of our anger and cross the line to see a situation from another’s point of view. Essentially this is an act of deep respect for another human being.
Through the exchange of gifts at Christmas, perhaps we could all benefit by taking a moment to reflect that this holiday was instated to celebrate the birth of a man who came to share with us a new way of seeing, living and being, culminating in a prayer to forgive those responsible for the agony he endured while nailed to a cross awaiting his imminent death.
I admire Emma Woods. Forgiveness has been one of my most difficult lessons in life, teaching me many times over that I only hurt myself if I choose blame, resentment, anger or bitterness over love.
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