… to forgive is divine!

Lockdown weighing heavily on my head. No/minimal work happening. Being a movie addict, I lapse into binge watching of Netflix & Amazon. This, to the utter disgust of my wife. And being at the receiving end of brickbats and burrs from rest of the family. All for my excess “screen time”. Yet, unapologetic, unabashed I continue. And sometimes hit a streak of sheer gold. One such good watch was Amish Grace. Directed by Gregg Champion, based on a book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. This was a hard hitting movie which challenged and clarified the esoteric concepts of Love & Hatred and of Forgiveness & Revenge. Let me tell you why I considered Amish Grace one of the most powerful stories I have seen: one that has the power to change you, if your heart is open!!

The plot is simple. Set in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania it showcases a typical American madness. A shooter enters the one-room Amish school in 2006 and holds hostage 10 small girls. The teacher runs out of the class to summon help; the Police arrive soon. And then Charlie Roberts (the intruder) shoots 10 girls and then turns the gun on himself. For America this is neither new nor unique. Every couple of months one hears of a random shooting spree on an academic campus or on the subway where scores of people fall prey to the mania of the shooter. What makes Charlie Roberts’ story so unique is the aftermath : how the Amish community handled the crisis.

Whenever I read about these senseless shoot-outs I always wonder what prompts such action? How can a person go through with such a dastardly act?? In this case, Charlie was trying to punish God!! He was raving against God’s injustice. Why be mad at God, you ask? Charlie & Amy have lost their daughter Lisa the very day she was born. Charlie is so angry and hurt, that he wants to purposely do evil, to spite God and His world! Armed by this logic, he goes to a local Hardware store, buys guns, goes to the unguarded Amish school with 600 rounds of ammo. He asks the boys in the school to leave, as in his mind God has taken away his daughter, & he has no quarrel with boys! He shoots 10 girls before killing himself! Of those shot, 5 died on the spot or later; while 5 others, had to undergo long hospitalization to recover.

For America, such shootouts and deaths are common. What makes the Nickel Mines story unique is that the Amish community came together to FORGIVE!!! Forgive their children’s killer!! and his family!! A most powerful scene in the movie is immediately after the news broke out, and everyone is in shock. The Amish Levi (priest) and other seniors go to the shooter’s house to meet his widow. The widow, Amy is also in a state of shock and cannot understand how a caring and loving father like Charlie could harm other children. She is distraught with grief. When she sees an Amish delegation, she fears the worst. But she faces them as she realizes “they have a right to be angry”. Imagine her total surprise when the first words she hears are , ” We are sorry for your loss” ” My loss?” Amy asks, confused in facing the community seniors who have lost small children. And the sanguine reply is, ” You lost a husband. Your children lost a father. We grieve for you as well. We harbor no anger for Charlie. We come here to tell you we forgive him” “we will not allow hatred in our hearts…we would like to offer our help. We are your neighbors”.

Arguably, the biggest pain any parent can face is the loss of his/her child. Remember Sholay,” एक बाप के लिए सबसे बड़ा बोझ है उसके बच्चे का जनाज़ा” But here are people who rise above that grief and talk forgiveness!! One of the parents puts it thus,” My daughter died this morning. It is a deep wound. But she is in Heaven with her Father now, and she is at peace”. To the younger sister, the father explains the empty bed, ” She is sleeping in a better place now, little one!”.

The mother cannot understand the Amish Levi & her own husband going to meet Amy Roberts & publicly declaring Forgiveness for Charlie. According to her, Charlie’s senseless act was unforgivable. Her plaint is, “God has shattered my heart & I will not betray my daughter by forgiving the man who murdered my daughter” She challenges her husband for his forgiving stance & screams, ” I dare to hate the man”. The father explains his forgiving stance beautifully to his younger daughter. ” This hate you have inside you, How does it make you feel? Do you feel good? Hate is a very, very harsh thing, with lots of sharp teeth, and it will eat up your whole heart and leave no room for love. What great advice!! So very often we are so angry with another , we hurt ourselves in the process and vitiate our own life. Buddha puts it as carrying live coals in your hand, to throw at another person. But, first you burn your own hands!! We do not understand that, “we do not have to carry all this terrible hate around in us, if we don’t want to; if we are willing to forgive”

That was the logic of the Amish in forgiving Charlie Roberts. Can we imbibe that in our lives? Or would we rather make our hearts the battleground torn between Hate & Love, between Forgiveness & Revenge? Do we not realize that to forgive makes it easier to go back to our lives? Or are some things totally unforgiveable? If my daughter is dead, have I not suffered enough damage already? To keep the Hate in my hearts actually hurts too much. Can we choose love, instead? Easy to say, but difficult to implement.

We tend to put ourselves into the role of meeting out justice for the wrongs committed. But is that our role? Can we choose love instead? In the final analysis, we all deserve forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does not even mean a pardon. But we need to accept that if we hold on to our anger & resentment, then it is only ourselves who are being punished. If someone is purposely doing evil to you, all the more reason we should forgive. But remember,” Forgiveness comes from an open heart & it comes without conditions, or it does not come at all.” That is why, when Amy Roberts herself says I do not know how to forgive Charlie, the Amish ladies who have all lost dear daughters, go up to her and say,” We will pray with you. None of us is alone“. It requires a strong faith to take this position. Do you have it in you? That is the question the movie asks each one of us.

Faith, when everything is going our way, is not faith. It is only when things are falling apart that we have the chance to make our Faith real. Can you? Do you?

This movie challenged my deepest conceptions of justice & fairness, of love & hatred, and finally of Forgiveness & Revenge.

Explore your own thoughts and let Amish Grace take you on this deep journey.

For as ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly father will forgive you also. Mathew 6:14

May you find your own answers in your heart: vikas


Humanitas Prize

Winner of the MOVIEGUIDE Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring TV Program of 2010

Grace Award for Television at the 2011 Movieguide Awards

Amish Grace broke network records in multiple demographics, with more than 4 million viewers, becoming the highest-rated and most-watched original movie in Lifetime Movie Network’s history.

26 Replies to “… to forgive is divine!”

  1. Wonderfully expressed!
    This perspective is key to achieving inner peace. Traditionally, we are programmed to seek revenge for any thing that we perceive as unjust. In a milder form, this is what we do with people around us. So a son seeks revenge from a strict father by being rebllious, an employee seeks revenge from his boss by underperforming, a husband seeks revenge from a controlling wife by lying to her… And so on. In any case, it is the revenge seeker who eventually suffers. The ability to forgive is something we were never taught proactively. While we hear people say ‘forgive and forgot, the movies we watch, the books we read, the behavior we see around us… All teach us to seek revenge for any wrong doing. There is a subtle difference between revenge and prevention of a wrong doing. Terrorists need to be prevented from killing people, but hating a terrorist all ones life makes no difference to anyone but the victim. It is not easy, but forgiveness is certainly the only way to bring peace to the world. As they say… An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AR
      lovely expression of what is wrong with the notion of revenge and you have also talked of its genesis. Yes getting even or getting back at someone gets ingrained in us from childhood and iit only grows with the influence of books, stories and movies. It requires a larger human being to rise above this petty tit for tat mentality, understand the action and be able to forgive. When at an individual level we find it so difficult, wonder when nations will come together to understand and act in this way. India Pakistan, Jews & Arabs, ….so many examples of deep rooted prejudices and biases and the immediate reaction which are uncontrolled.
      One wonders when we will use understanding and healing!!


  2. This is exactly the perspective on forgiveness that we are taught in the
    BKs. I must admit that this is one aspect of their teachings that has not fully convinced me. While at intellectual level, the arguments in favour of forgiveness make a lot of sense, the emotional acceptance often proves to be a challenge.
    The spontaneity with which the Amish community displayed this extremely rare sense of forgiveness is unbelievable!
    When I see it in the light of what Bk sister Shivani says on forgiveness, I see the connection and say..”oh.yes…it is possible….it is believable …that some people indeed can be so large hearted”
    I share a link to Sis Shivani’s interaction with Suresh Oberoi on “Why to forgive ;How to forgive”
    https://youtu.be/Eps_HbePrgo .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JL
      many thanks for your comments. I feel my blog, even after publication, is not complete until it is blessed by your wisdom. I quite look FW to your comment and feel a sense of completion on your reading your comments.
      I went and saw on youtube BK Shivani’s video. Striking parallels to what was shown and spoken in the film. Just goes to prove that we humans are all bound together by thoughts and common experiences. If only we were more open to those inner nudges and talks, life would be much more humane and enjoyable.
      I have always felt that our hearts are aligned to the True North, intuitively we know what is the right path, and divest of subterfuge we would live and walk only on the Golden Path of Values.
      Unfortunately, in modern times, our heads overtake our hearts. We are ruled by our heads and logic and thinking. And we suppress our feelings. If we let the heart rule, lives ( both individual & community living) would be so different.
      That is what the Amish demonstrated in the movie. And the mother who was fighting forgiveness and choosing hatred is also “healed” at the end!! I agree with you that intellectually it is all fine, but practically our feet are of clay, and so we forsake the Right Path. Being an optimist, I am hopeful that Wo Subah Kabhi to Aayegi….Let us wait!


      1. Hi VS: your remarks on the first para above are quite overwhelming for me. i indeed appreciate the value you attach to my views on your excellent write ups ..which always come from heart. While going through your blogs is always a very inspiring experience , what you have written now, kind of adds to my responsibility ,in finding time to respond …Thanks again for your kind words


    2. JLS
      I was being truthful when I wrote that your comments indeed make the blog “whole”
      For every writer the dream is to connect
      and to see your well thought out comments and great value additions is always a pleasure
      Not only me, some of my regular followers also sms me and comment on your comments
      Thus is the circle complete

      Nevertheless, intention is not to pressurize you
      Rashmi herself hardly ever reads what I write
      I am reconciled to that and many others who will just send a smiley icon on WA after my blog
      No complaints
      What is , is
      Take care & stay well


  3. Vikas, thanks for sharing with us an award winning film story and priceless philosophy. Would make it a point to see it. This is of course, a story where innocent children are killed for no fault of theirs or their parents. We rarely come across such situation in India. Here we go through so much injustice in our life specially if you have grown up from the lowest strata of society. Here you generally learn both to forget and forgive. Forget is better because it leaves no opportunity to forgive. What can you do about injustice without suffering yourself? Just forget it and look for another good day and good opportunity.


    1. DR Kelkar
      many thanks for your observations. Yes we are fortunate that while India has its madmen, we have not seen the type of senseless shootouts which have become so common in US & Europe. In some ways you are right that the injustice and deprivation which the lower social strata face regularly, have deadened them to react. They choose to forget the ignominy of existence and the inequalities heaped on them. Otherwise there would be a bloody revolution every other day in India!!
      Do see the Movie Amish Grace on Amazon Prime. Just 89 minutes. But leaves a long lasting impression.
      When are you back to Thane Doc? Meanwhile take care. Stay Healthy & Safe.


  4. Absolutely new perspective.
    We talk of revenge like …
    पाठी येऊन छळीन, रोटी येऊन छळीन…
    Forgiveness is a divine virtue.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nilesh ji
      so true
      a diffrent perspective
      and what faith must be there to back such decisions
      I was indeed taken in
      and so thought of sharing
      The movie is just 89 mins
      but makes a deep impression


    1. Sowmya
      The wisdom is of the movie
      I have just presented
      the bold stuff is all direct quotes
      do see the movie
      Just 89 minutes, but so very powerful
      You will enjoy
      It is on Amazon Prime


  5. Very touching story and a lesson so important for all of us. We can rise above our natural human reaction to feel hatred and instead learn to forgive and transcend an extremely difficult barrier so as to set a benchmark and earn the respect of the one who committed the act. Very well brought out as usual. Thanks for sharing 🙏


    1. Col saab
      you are always so kind
      the movie stirred me to the core
      Do catch it Prime
      It is time well spent

      Yes Forgiving is difficult
      but carrying the hate inside of you is more painful
      the moment we realise this we will be free

      as one of the quotes says so well Forgiving enlarges the future


  6. Vikasou

    An excellent compendium of thoughts on a trait ” Forgiveness” which perhaps distinguishes humans.

    Indian spirituality captures it’s essence in the word “Kshama” … which in addition to forgiveness includes ones propensity to bear injustice/offence without residual or negative emotions/actions//memories

    Many thanks Vikas , for your insightful blogs.



    1. Nikhil bhai
      thanks for your constant encouragement
      and the value add
      Yes Indian scriptures & Hindu philosophy is considered the mother of right thinkuing and behaviour
      and by reminding about the concept of Khshama you are underlining that
      What is important is that we forgive without remnant or after thoughts
      I am always impressed with the jain practice of Micchami Dukkhadam
      and the Christian Confessionals
      indeed we have a lot to guide us on the Right Path


    2. Hatred corrodes the linings of your being. You may feel totally justified seething in righteous indignation at the unfairness served to you, but the burning embers of virus make you a semi-animal. Even much after the revenge is taken, the hater ceases to be a being of joy and peace. It is ironical that few political dispensations use the tool of hatred to polarize the voters while from the rostrum their own leaders preach unity and cohesiveness.


      1. NP my friend, so well said. Indeed a man who hates is no longer in control of his emotions or actions. And like a cancer it does eat you from within. It is sad that many leaders…political, religious,…. use hate to galvanize their followers. The followers do not realize the game being played. And they are scarred for life


  7. Very true thoughts well expressed. Reminded me of Buddha’s words “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”


    1. Thanks Preeti for your kind words
      In fact if you see closely I have quoted the same comment of Buddha in my blog
      Difficult to do, but worthy of consideration


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