Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How Far Does Your Forgiveness Go?

Talk about a scary story. Sue Ann Gorman was sleeping yesterday morning in her bed. At her side was her service dog, Misty, a sheltie. She also had her neighbor’s Jack Russell terrier, Romeo, in the room with her.

Imagine a quiet sleepy morning with a couple of loving dogs at your side. Suddenly you’re awakened by horrific growling and barking as two pit bulls leap into the room and begin attacking!

That is exactly what happened to Gorman, 59, who lives in Gig Harbor, Washington. The pit bulls belong to another neighbor. They came through the unlocked pet door and without provocation began attacking Gorman and both dogs. The sheltie got away and Gorman tried to throw the terrier into a closet so the pit bulls couldn’t get to him. The terrier was killed as Gorman tried to beat the dogs off with a stick. She picked up a gun and tried to shoot the pit bulls but the gun wouldn’t fire. Finally she was able to grab a phone, run out of the house and get inside of her car where she called 911.

Brian Boman, a Pierce County animal control officer said, “This is the worst attack in my career in animal control.” Boman and Pierce County sheriff’s deputies captured the two pit bulls, a mother and son, who were still loose in the house, after a struggle involving pepper spray. The Pierce County Humane Society is keeping the dogs until a judge decides their fate. Gorman suffered injuries to her face, arms and legs and is hospitalized in Tacoma for the next several days.

Shelly Wilson who owns the pit bulls says she is devastated by the attack, arguing that her dogs are good dogs that were chained up in her back yard. She has no idea how they got loose or why they attacked. Other neighbors disagreed and claim that the pit bulls have been terrorizing the neighborhood for some time.

Sue Ann Gorman will never forget this episode. The vicious scenes will reply in her mind over and again. She’ll relive the bites and ripping of her flesh, the powerlessness she felt while trying to escape, and the dying whimper of the terrier. The questions of Wilson as to why she would own pit bulls or why couldn’t she control them, will go round and round in her head. Fear and grief will be strongly felt for some time.

I’m describing to you a powerful human dynamic called resentment. Left untreated resentment has the power to destroy one’s life. The only antidote is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not based upon the perpetrator being sorry or remorseful. Forgiveness isn’t dependent upon restitution. Forgiveness is a choice the victim makes to release the need to get even or hurt someone in return. Forgiveness is a state of wishing the other well.

That’s not to imply that we remain vulnerable to future misdeeds. We don’t become doormats for people to perpetually walk over. We establish proper boundaries with unsafe people or circumstances. But, we don’t continue on with a grief-stricken, vengeful, bitter desire to see the other suffer as we have.

Being a forgiving person is a powerful way to live and it is one of many benefits that come with following Jesus Christ. This story illustrates another of a thousand reasons that I follow Jesus Christ. The power to forgive comes from Jesus Christ.

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