Today I read an article about an atrocity that occurred in the Houston area back in 1993. Apparently a 14 year old girl and her friend were taking a shortcut home when they were stopped by a gang of 6 teenage thugs who violently gang raped them and brutally murdered them both. Of the 6, three were given prison sentences while the other three received the death penalty. The last to receive the death penalty died last Tuesday. Maybe you are familiar with the story.
The article wasn’t really about the death of this inmate. It was really about the father of one of the two girls who were murdered. This man was at each of the other state-induced deaths and watched as the light faded from their eyes. This man refused to accept their apologies and wishes that they had been hung out front of the Houston courthouse rather than being in prison and getting death much later in a less public way.
The last man to die was the ringleader of the group. Yet, while in prison, he was known as the best, most well-behaved inmate on death row. His lawyer had kept in contact with him over the years and reports that his remorse had led to a complete change and maturity for this young man. For 17 years he has tried to change to be the man he should have been all along. Then, before his death, he wrote a letter of apology to this father. But the father refused to even read it. In fact, the father said he could just “stick it”.
This story makes me really sad. Yes, the story of the rape and murder of these two young girls is horrific. They didn’t deserve to die. Yes, this young man deserved to pay for his crime. But what makes me sad is the story of the father. This man has harbored his hatred and un-forgiveness towards these six men for 17 years…that’s longer than his daughter was even alive. A grudge held that long is a very sad story.
What do you think? You may think he has every right to feel that way toward these men. Yes, his anger is justified…they brutally killed his daughter and changed his life forever. I can’t help but think about the state of that man, though.
There’s a quote out there that is often times associated with Carrie Fisher. “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
I hurt for this man because I know the prison he is held in by his grudge. I have held grudges before…and they weren’t even as justified as that but they were no less real to me. What we don’t realize often times is that when people do us wrong we have a choice. We can choose to let them win, or we can choose to allow them to lose. When we are hurt we can choose to forgive or we can choose to hold on to it and allow it to fester in our lives. One day, if we are the unforgiving type, we wake up and find that we wish they were in prison, but we are in a prison unto ourselves. We are held captive unable to live life in the joy and fulfillment it is meant to bring.
Jesus wants us to forgive, and he was pretty blunt about the importance of forgiveness: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
That message is pretty plain. I pray for the father that lost his daughter, and I pray equally for us that we may be able to forgive. When we understand the forgiveness of Jesus…that He wants to forgive us of EVERYTHING, then maybe we will be better motivated to forgive others.
You and I are called to forgive. Lets help each other do just that! I am praying for you about this, but if there’s something you’d like me to pray about specifically, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless you, and may He show you His forgiveness so you can forgive others.