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    I Bear No Grudge

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    January 26, 2022
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    From Why Forgive?


    Hope for a great sea-change
    on the far side of revenge.
    Believe that a further shore
    is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    and cures and healing wells.
    Seamus Heaney

    Gordon Wilson held his daughter’s hand as they lay trapped beneath a mountain of rubble. It was 1987, and he and Marie had been attending a peaceful memorial service in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, when a terrorist bomb went off. By the end of the day Marie and nine other civilians were dead, and sixty-three had been hospitalized for injuries.

    Amazingly, Gordon refused to retaliate, saying that angry words could neither restore his daughter nor bring peace to Belfast. Only hours after the bombing, he told BBC reporters:

    I have lost my daughter, and we shall miss her. But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge … That will not bring her back … Don’t ask me, please, for a purpose … I don’t have an answer. But I know there has to be a plan. If I didn’t think that, I would commit suicide. It’s part of a greater plan … and we shall meet again.

    Later Gordon said that his words were not intended as a theological response to his daughter’s murder. He had simply blurted them out from the depth of his heart. In the days and weeks that followed the bombing, he struggled to live up to his words. It wasn’t easy, but they were something to hang on to, something to keep him afloat in the dark hours when grief overwhelmed him.

    Gordon Wilson with his wife Joan

    Gordon Wilson with his wife Joan (Public domain)

    He knew that the people who took his daughter’s life were anything but remorseful, and he maintained that they should be punished and imprisoned. Even so, he refused to seek revenge.

    Those who have to account for this deed will have to face a judgment of God, which is way beyond my forgiveness … It would be wrong for me to give any impression that gunmen and bombers should be allowed to walk the streets freely. But whether or not they are judged here on earth by a court of law … I do my very best in human terms to show forgiveness. … The last word rests with God.

    Gordon was misunderstood and ridiculed by many because of his stand, but he says that without having made a decision to forgive, he never could have accepted the fact that his daughter was never coming back. Nor could he have found the freedom to move on. Forgiving also had a positive effect that reached beyond his personal life. At least temporarily, his words broke the cycle of killing and revenge: the local Protestant paramilitary leadership felt so convicted by his courage that they did not retaliate.

    Contributed By JohannChristophArnold Johann Christoph Arnold

    A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, education, and end-of-life issues, Arnold was a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities.

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