Is apology required for the deep peace that comes from total forgiveness?
The worst possible offense, such as deliberate and repeated trauma or torture,
requires a deep and almost incomprehensible level of forgiveness …
what can only be called “extreme forgiveness.”
This is a story from several years ago, found by a friend who has a rather odd passion for reading obituaries. She shared this one with me and even though it’s old, our world is always creating fresh wounds as countries battle over ancient grievances and mass shootings shatter our communities.
Extreme forgiveness leads to peace.
The call to find our way to extreme forgiveness grows with each atrocity and may be the only way we shall ever find our way to peace.
The story my friend shared was that of Eric Lomax who died at 93 almost 12 years ago. Lomax was a British Army officer who was captured and tortured by the Japanese during the fall of Singapore in 1942. Savagely beaten, water boarded and forced with thousands of others to build the infamous Burma-to-Siam railroad, Lomax was featured in the 1957 film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," Lomax deliberately avoided all things Japanese and went more than 45 years without speaking to a Japanese person, embodying a common POW attitude of "don't forget, don't forgive."
However, late in his life after suffering post-traumatic stress for decades, Lomax decided to find the man who had been his principal interrogator during his imprisonment. He wound up finding Takashi Nagase, who had published his own memoir of shame and regret and financed a Buddhist temple at the bridge to atone for his actions during the war. Nagase's story prompted a meeting between the two elderly enemies on the bridge where they had engaged fifty years earlier.
Total forgiveness: “I think I can die safely now.”
After their meeting, Lomax wrote Nagase a letter assuring him of his total forgiveness and Nagase said, "I think I can die safely now." The meeting between the two was filmed for a television documentary, "Enemy, My Friend?" Lomax later wrote a memoir titled "The Railway Man," which was made into a movie starring Colin Firth.
Extreme forgiveness. How does one forgive the most unimaginable cruelty? What is the first step of letting go of that pain and anger? And, if Eric Lomax can forgive the man who tortured him, can those of us who carry somewhat minor, everyday wrongs, not do likewise?
Are apologies necessary?
A question that has always confounded me: is it necessary for the other person to apologize before forgiveness can be granted? It’s clear that forgiveness is more about bringing me peace than it is about the hurtful actions of the other person, which cannot be undone. However, what if the other person does not express sorrow and request forgiveness?
Perhaps the difference is between the concept of forgiveness and the idea of reconciliation. I can let go of the hurt and anger (forgive) regardless of the lack of any expressions of apology from the other person. However, that does not mean I have to be open to reconciliation, which requires the opening of both hearts and acceptance of a new way of being together.
About this image: Crack in the World
Years ago while exploring Yosemite, I found a cracked, huge redwood log that caught my attention and invited me to play in Photoshop:
Where it became Crack in the World.
More years later, it came back and demanded my attention again and became The Beating Heart of the World.
Which reminds me that nothing stays the same … we never step into the same river … forgiveness is possible.