“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s one of my favorite stories from Jack Kornfield’s book, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace:
“A fourteen year old boy shot and killed an innocent teenager to prove himself to his gang. At the trial, the victim’s mother sat impassively silent until the end when the youth was convicted of the killing. After the verdict was announced, she stood up slowly and looked directly at him and stated, “I’m going to kill you.” The youth was taken away to serve several years in the juvenile facility.
After the first half year, the mother of the slain child went to visit his killer. He had been living on the streets before the killing, and she was the only visitor he’d had. For a time they talked and when she left she gave him some money for cigarettes. She started to visit him more regularly, bringing food and small gifts. Near the end of his three year sentence she asked him what he would be doing when he got out. He was confused and uncertain, so she offered to set him up with a job at a friend’s company. She inquired about where he would live, and since he had no family, she offered him temporary use of the spare room in her home.
For eight months he lived there, ate her food, and worked at the job. One evening she called him into the living room to talk. She sat down opposite him and waited. “Do you remember in the courtroom when I said I was going to kill you?”
“I sure do.”
“Well, I did,” she went on. “I did not want the boy who could kill my son for no reason to remain alive on this earth. I wanted him to die. That’s why I started to visit you and bring you things. That’s why I got you the job and let you live here in my house. That’s how I set about changing you. And that old boy, he’s gone. So now I want to ask you, since my son is gone, and that killer is gone if you’ll stay here. I’ve got room, and I’d like to adopt you if you let me.”
And she became the mother of her son’s killer, the mother he never had.”