Enjoying the Journey.
Traveling through airports quite often, I have learned how to travel light. I carefully choose everything I take with me. I go to the extent of carefully considering what to wear because of going through the TSA security. I have learned that the less I carry with me the more I get to enjoy the journey. While we put much thought on making our airport experience easier, maybe by wearing comfortable shoes or by ensuring that our luggage are not over the required airline weight, I have observed that we often don’t take as much consideration to the quality of the bigger journey we all are in, the journey of life: Particularly, we don’t pay attention on what we carry in our journey until it becomes too heavy for us to bear. While we don’t like to get stopped by the TSA agent for something suspicious in our bags, we completely hate to have to pay extra for overweight bags. Similarly, we shouldn’t wait until the price tag for what we carry through in life is too much for us to bear. To avoid this happening and assure you enjoy your life, you must, at one point or another, answer the question, what’s necessary for me to carry in the journey of life?
Healing a Nation
In the wake of July 15th, 1994, what had been viewed by the global community as an internal conflict had resulted in the mass execution of about one million people and an estimated five hundred thousand rapes. The members of the Tutsi tribe were nearly wiped out from the face of the earth by their fellow countrymen of the Hutu tribe. The Rwandan genocide, its scale and brutality, caused shock worldwide. Families that had lived alongside each other for years and their children played together, had now taken up arms against each other. The whole world wondered how all the hurts would ever be reconciled.
But today, over 25 years after the devastating war that left a country deeply scarred and the world utterly shocked, Rwanda is defining forgiveness. Thousands of perpetrators are living alongside their victims. The deep wounds that seemed impossible to overcome, are now being healed across the country one victim at a time. Perpetrators are seeking forgiveness to their victims, while victims are seeking healing. The result is a healing nation.
Over the years, the people of Rwanda, had to answer the question, what was necessary for them to carry moving forward, hurting or healing? They chose healing. Healing required them to choose one of the oldest ways for lightening the burden of life; Forgiveness. In this world, you will fail, you will find faults in others, and you will be hurt by others. Failure, faults, and hurts are the greatest source of extra weight we might pick on this journey of life. But like what has been happening in the Rwandan people, if we live a life of forgiveness, we will have taken the first step of travelling light.
So, before we can dive into how forgiveness lightens our journey, let’s examine what are the core factors of forgiveness that allows it to lighten our lives as it’s doing to the people of Rwanda.
1. A heart of love
“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” said Bryant McGill author of the Voice of Reason. It is impossible to separate forgiveness from love. Mother Teresa, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, who was known for her life of service is quoted saying “If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive”. If you have ever forgiven anyone, whether you consider them a friend or not, your forgiveness originated from love. Whether you were conscious of the love or not. A heart devoid of love is full of hate, and where there is hate there is no forgiveness. Therefore, at the core of true and pure forgiveness is a heart of love.
A heart of love, that is a heart that is filled with love, even when faced with failure, faults, or hurts of others, is able to withstand all evil. One of my favorite prolific writers, Apostle Paul, described love by giving its attribute that showed what love was and what it wasn’t. In describing what it is, he wrote, “love is patient and it is kind.” In referencing what it isn’t he wrote, “Love does not envy, isn’t boastful, or proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs….always hopes, always perseveres and love never fails.” These qualities of love explain why a heart that’s full love is at the core of forgiveness. While love opens the doors for forgiveness, grace powers us to take the actions of forgiveness.
2. The power of grace
Forgiveness is about deliberate and decisive actions that bring healing to the soul. The gap between deciding to forgive and letting go of the pain and bitterness is only closed by the power of grace. Grace is unmerited or underserved kindness. When we get hurt by people, the first virtue that gets affected is kindness. But grace moves us to forgive despite the fact that those hurt us don’t deserve it.
The work of Photographer Pieter Hugo of South Africa was featured on New York Times Magazine (online) in which he documented stories of reconciliation in Rwanda 20 years after the genocide. The trend that emerged in every story was how grace from the survivors was extended to the perpetrators of the war. There was nothing that could be done to bring healing to the people apart from forgiveness powered by grace. No prison time was able to cleanse the sins of the offenders. Karorero a survivor of the genocide is quoted saying, “Sometimes justice does not give someone a satisfactory answer. But when it comes to forgiveness willingly granted, one is satisfied once and for all” this is what grace does. It allows us to extend forgiveness to those who might never be able pay us back. Karorero added, “When someone is full of anger, he can lose his mind. But when I granted forgiveness, I felt my mind at rest.”
It is only when we allow the power of grace to move us, that we are able to forgive. Lasting forgiveness that eliminates any traces of bitterness is only possible by grace. And when we yield to the power of grace, we are moved from a state of bitterness to a place where we desire reconciliation.
3. A desire for reconciliation
Forgiveness always seeks a positive outcome. At the core of forgiveness is a desire for reconciliation. Reconciliation does not mean forgetting what has happened in the past, but it is acknowledging the failures we have experienced, the faults of others, and the hurts we have experienced in our past, then moving into the future in the most positive way possible.
While it is true that we may not be able to restore every broken relationship to its former state, we can build stronger and more beautiful relationships when we fully allow the process of forgiveness to take its course. It’s us who hold back and stand on the way of forgiveness. There is no forgiveness if there is something that’s holding us back.
Circling back to where we began, when we forgive, we do it because of the heart of love; it’s forms a loop that births a deep human desire for reconciliation. So, when you listen deeply to at the heart of forgiveness, there is a desire for reconciliation.
In summary, forgiveness is a result of love, grace and a desire to reconcile. In Rwanda, it’s not only healing the two tribes, it also allowing Rwandans, whether Tutsi or Hutu, to look into the future of their country with hope. As a result, Rwanda has overcome its dark past and has emerged as one of the most successful economies in Africa.
Forgiveness is the first key to travelling light.
Next we will further explore how exactly forgiveness lightens our journey of life. Until next time, here is a quote for you to ponder on. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi.