Living forgiveness

February 6, 2014

amiish_6The Amish people in their old-fashioned garb and horse and buggy rigs seem so quaint to us modern folks. And yet, we’re fascinated by their simple life styles and rejection of technology.

An excellent two-hour American Experience documentary on the sect aired the other night and I watched casually, until the part that dealt with the shooting of 10 Amish schoolgirls in Pennsylvania.  Five died.

If that was shocking, and it was, the Amish response to the shooting riveted me.

It was all about forgiveness.

It began the night of the shooting, when Amish neighbors visited the killer’s family.

“We forgive you,” the Amish told the killer’s family.  “We forgive you.”

“Grace walked in the door that night. And with grace, hope also walked in the door.”  That’s what the pastor to the family of the killer  (the killer’s name is Charles) said about it.

Here’s what the mother of one of the murdered children said:

When I think of forgiving it doesn’ t mean that you’ve forgotten what he’s done….but it means that you have released unto God the one who has offended you and you have given up your right to seek revenge.    I placed the situation in God’s hands and just accept that this is the way it was and I choose not to hold it against Charles because it really doesn’t help me any, anyway.

More than 30 Amish, including the parents of several dead victims, attended the killer’s funeral.

The father of one of the murdered girls said this:

And I came home from the burial thinking so thankful to God that I don’t need to make a judgment on his soul.  There was just a wash of peace,   like unloading baggage Wow, I don’t need to deal with this. This is God’s territory.Big_Heart_of_Art_-_1000_Visual_Mashups

  Someone else on the film said this:

  Forgiveness requires giving something up.  Giving up your right to revenge, feelings of bitterness, however you define it.

  This is the best example I’ve ever seen of living forgiveness and understanding what the Divine asks of us.

We live in a world driven by human judgment and revenge. We don’t often get to see love and forgiveness as a way of life.  The Amish may dress in old-fashioned attire and hew to a more primitive way of life by our standards. But they sure seem more evolved and progressive than the rest of us. I’m grateful for this reminder that there are people in the world who live God’s grace every day, even in the most difficult of situations.

Because, really, that’s when it counts most.

18 comments on “Living forgiveness
  1. after living and working alongside the Amish most of my life, I have come to the conclusion that they are the most loving and forgiving people. this is not the first instance that I’ve seen the Amish community rally together and love the sinner.

  2. Whenever I’m in Pennsylvania, I always make a stop in Lancaster. I do find myself somewhat envious of the Amish.
    There is a powerful story from Father Groeschel on forgiveness. It’s about Jewish Catholic converts forgiving a Nazi officer.
    I remember this incident and the Amish community’s reaction. I’ve heard a lot of talk on the subject of forgiveness, but have rarely seen it put into such practice.

  3. Devin Mills says:

    Hi Carol,
    Really needed this, this morning. There is someone in my life that did something so hurtful to me that I’ve wanted to somehow get back at them for a while now. But when I read above: “Forgiveness requires giving something up. Giving up your right to revenge, feelings of bitterness, however you define it” it was like a load was lifted. Love is the answer. Love heals all. Instead of revenge, I will choose love. Thank you for sharing.

  4. CAC2 says:

    Our society can learn a lot from them in this particular area. Our justice system (especially in states that practice capital punishment) is very much based on retributive justice. People have an emotional need to “get back” at the perpetrator of a crime. All this does is breed further hostility against one another in daily life – everyone becomes a potential enemy. Any time there is a news story about a crime, people immediately start commenting online, calling the criminal all sorts of names. Does that really make them feel better or accomplish anything?

    It’s interesting to note that in countries that practice less retribution and more rehabilitation in their justice system, we see much lower rates of violent crime. It would be nice to see the US adjust its policy seeing as the current model does not act as a deterrent, but I fear too many Americans will not want to give up their favorite pastime of passing judgement on their peers.

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

  5. Doreen McGettigan says:

    The father of one of those children killed in the Amish school helped my heart beyond measure. He helped me realize I needed to forgive my brothers murderers for me, not them.
    They are amazing people.

  6. Helen Knight says:

    Forgiveness is an act of the will. That’s why that mom could state it so quickly. It’s a choice, not an emotion. I’m always impressed with parents of murdered children who can do this. I’ve done it in my own life – although with much less infractions to forgive. The will dictates, the feelings follow eventually – or maybe not, but at least the forgiver is free.

    • admin says:

      Helen, it’s true. It’s like civil rights legislation. Slow and creakily, attitudes began to turn. “At least the forgiver is free” is absolutely true. You all talk truth, today.

  7. Diane says:

    I’ve often asked myself, “Could I do this?” I don’t know. Would I simply carry around the burden of anger and regret forever? Or would I, too, cast away the burden. Wonderful story!

  8. Nancy Hill says:

    The authenticity of simplicity and pragmatism comes through so clearly in the love and peace that is shown in many situations by groups we call Anabaptists. I grew up near Mennonites, Amish, Old Order Brethren, and offshoots and mingled sects of these groups. They are inspiring in many ways. As Elvis, Costello said, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”

  9. Wow. What a great way to look at forgiveness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.