Michelle Knight – “It’s the Way of Life”
When some crazy guy wounded Pope Jean-Paul by taking a pot-shot at him, the Pope forgave him. Everyone thought it was wonderful.
“How could he do it?” people asked. “Well, he’s the Pope,” most people replied. “You’d expect him to, I guess.”
This was hailed as an example of the kind of forgiveness and humility to which we should all aspire.
But it pales into insignificance against the example of forgiveness provided by Michelle Knight, one of the girls kidnapped, locked up, raped and abused for 10+ years by Ariel Castro.
Only one year ago, she and the other two girls were freed. Michelle was interviewed this week on NBC’s Dateline and shook the heck out of the host by saying she had already forgiven Castro.
Jaws must have dropped in every living room in the country when she said that. Dateline is not renowned for doing stories about forgiveness, so it must have been a surprise.
This was no grand gesture by Michelle. She meant it. For her it was simple. “If I did something wrong myself, I would want someone to forgive me. But I have to be willing to forgive first. It’s the way of life,” she said. “He was a human being.”
Yes, we might have expected something akin to this from a Pope, but who would have expected it from any one of those girls?
It seemed so simple when she said it. “It’s the way of life.” I doubt that the Pope could have said it better himself.
And her approach was as close to Radical Forgiveness as it is possible to get without using the words, and as far as I know, she didn’t have to use a worksheet. For her it was self-evident.
There was not a trace of anger in her that I could discern. Is she in denial still? It’s a fair question, but I doubt it.
She may yet need to express a lot of repressed rage, but that doesn’t negate her willingness to forgive now. If she is in denial, it was not evident, and I doubt she could have written a book about the experience if she was still in denial. (The book is called Finding Me, and it came out last weekend.)
Her notion of reciprocity reminded me of a Seattle-based study I wrote about in my first book, Radical Forgiveness, in 1997. It echoes what Michelle said and proves her right.
The study tried to find out how long it took people to forgive someone for something. It went on for some years, and at each meeting nothing much had changed in any of the subjects.
Then all of a sudden a person would report that the negativity had suddenly evaporated and they felt they had finally forgiven.
When the researchers delved further into it, they found that the forgiveness happened more or less immediately after the subjects themselves had been forgiven for something they had done that was quite unrelated to the event in question.
There was apparently a balancing of energies involved. This is what Michelle has intuitively tapped into and had come to realize on her own. I look forward to reading her book.