Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Forgiveness


On Forgiveness

Prior to the meeting and dialogue between my intern, Chad Davis, former police officer Greg Nash and myself, I had prepared to answer an array of questions about what the Guilford College Higher Education in Prison Initiative is. I was prepared to defend statistics, research, evidence and even my compassion. I was prepared to be strong, and to defend the very morals that surround my integrity around this program’s purpose.

To a small extent the conversation explored dynamics of the initiative but more so, it developed into themes of very real human emotion and condition.





Greg came to speak about his personal stories, insights, and interactions with people while he was a police officer and did so with poignant, powerful conviction.

There was a point in one of his stories about a nineteen year old boy when I noticed a dissonance. Sitting there, I saw a man conflicted with compassion to want to see those in prison flower; transform through education. Yet a soft skepticism was apparent in his eyes and bowed head when he recalled the story of how he had tried so much to help so many young men just to see them continue to make the same poor choices.  

He questioned themes of worthiness, punishment and forgiveness towards those who have committed acts that he personally found to be unforgiveable.

Many arguments he raised were sound opinions that have been expressed in several forums against providing higher education to incarcerated persons. I found it compelling to hear these arguments in a different tone, with a softer but nonetheless strong sentiment. They were not just ignorant statements; they were real emotions expressing a desire for hope and compassion for rehabilitation for victims and offenders but skepticism and hesitation towards a holistic process of transformation, reintegration and forgiveness.

In my developments a comprehensive understanding of victims, offenders and the community’s perceptions of this initiative has been a strong driving force to its blossoming. This initiative’s main objective is to provide an education to those incarcerated although I am convinced that a greater culmination of transformation will transpire.

In order to heal; as a victim, an individual, an offender, a society: in order to restore victim-offender crimes and social ills that often-time provide systemic foundations to crime, it is with great importance and care to hear varying degrees of perspectives and work towards reconciliation and reparations…towards forgiveness.

For the rest of the day after the interview, questions of forgiveness and redemption stuck in my head.

To be sure, forgiveness is a very complex matter, and “just forgiving” can’t be tantamount simply to extending forgiveness in response to an offender’s confession; nor can “just forgiving” be tantamount to a victim’s generous offer of mercy to an unapologetic offender. There are many moving stories of offenders seeking and finding forgiveness in the course of truth and reconciliation proceedings, and there are profound stories of victims unilaterally forgiving their unremorseful, unrepentant, unmoved offenders. While some of these very one-sided stories eventually reach good outcomes, many are left unfinished and unresolved. However, even when incomplete, one-sided forgiveness seems better than no-forgiveness at all. Forgiving someone seems to open a tiny crack in the wall of human indifference, injustice, and violence that lets the light of redemption get in – even if the offender turns away.

What I am realizing more and more through stories, in myself and providing transformation through restorative justice by such practices as education is that forgiveness is not an entitlement or something we may or may not deserve-it is only a gift that you or I can give. Forgiving is offering that gift in response to people who directly or indirectly offend, insult, or injure us, so that we and they might find redemption and that our bruised and broken relationships might one day be restored, in ourselves and our communities.

I am grateful to Greg and those willing to share their stories; for allowing the opportunity to hear truthful convictions of the heart. It helps to conceptualize the very real fears and apprehensions people have when trust, in any relationship is broken, and how the road to redemption, reparation and forgiveness may be sought but is not one that is easily traveled.

Yet, necessary for healing.


Letter of Apology

I apologize to my victims and my family because my criminal behavior changed their lives unfairly forever.

To the victim(s) of my crime(s)

As I sit down to write my apology I find myself overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and uncertainty. I must admit that when I was first incarcerated I felt sorrier because I was caught than I was about what I had done. I truly did not connect with the pain that I had caused my victims.

While sitting in maximum security, a man that was assisting my lawyer with my defense came to see me. He had been interviewing my family and what he found out about my mother’s death shook me to my core. My mother died when I was 7 years old. I was told that she had died from cancer.

So, I grew up believing that my mother died from cancer. My visitor told me that some members of my family believed that my mother may have been murdered, I became very angry. I wanted to know why my family had never told me this. When I called home my grandmother told me that she was sorry for not telling me but because of my fragile mental state after my mother’s death they(my family) thought it would be best not to tell me until I was older. As I got older she said that the timing was never right.

My grandmother went on to tell me that a man that I had known all of my life as “Uncle Sonny”, may have killed my mother. I was so angry that I wanted to kill him because he had taken my mother away from my brother, sister, and me.

Later that night when I was alone in my cell it hit me. The rage that I felt, the anger I felt, the loneliness I felt, all of the emotions I felt made me cry uncontrollable. All of the days as a child, that I had wished God would wake my mother up and send her home to me came flooding back. I knew then that my victims must have been feeling the same way. I knew then that I had become like that piece of garbage that took my mother away. I knew then that my victims must think the same of me.

I wish that I would have never committed my crimes that caused so much pain to so many and for that I am truly, truly sorry.

I pray that my apology gives my victims some comfort in knowing that I accept full responsibility for my actions. In addition, I reject the criminal lifestyle that poisoned my mind.

Therefore, with that being said, let me ask you now to forgive me for the pain that I have caused you. If I could I would not hesitate to take this back and I will never ever do anything like this again.

To my Family

I apologize to my ex-wife, children, parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the hurt, pain, shame, and embarrassment that I caused all of you through my criminal behavior.

There are no words strong enough to express how regretful I am for committing my crimes. My behavior was inexcusable and totally contrary to the way I was raised.

I can only hope that one day I live up to the expectations you have of me.

Please forgive me.

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