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Forgiveness Is Important

Forgiving makes a difference

by Helen Levesley (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To consider the concept of forgiveness.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three readers.

Assembly

Leader: What does it mean to forgive? The dictionary definition of forgive is ‘no longer feel angry about or wish to punish [someone for] an offence, flaw or mistake, or cancel a debt’.

Let’s look at two examples of real forgiveness.

Reader 1: Anthony Walker was a teenager who had his whole life ahead of him. He had taken his A Levels and was expected to get straight As. He intended to go to university. Anthony was brutally murdered in a racially motivated attack in the summer of 2005. When his killers were convicted in November that year, Anthony’s mother, Gee, stood outside the court and made the following statement.

Reader 2: Why live a life sentence? Hate killed my son, so why should I be a victim, too? Unforgiveness makes you a victim and why should I be a victim? Anthony spent his life forgiving. His life stood for peace, love and forgiveness and I brought them up that way.

Leader: What an amazing woman! To say that you forgive someone for taking the life of your son, and mean it, makes Gee Walker someone who is truly amazing. And yet, we can use forgiveness in our everyday lives, whether it is a major betrayal or a petty squabble.

It is very difficult for us to imagine what it must be like to be in Gee Walker’s shoes. But forgiveness is one of the most important steps you can take towards peace of mind, even if it means forgiving your sister for breaking your GHDs, your mum for grounding you, your dad for leaving or even your grandmother for dying.

Life offers us many opportunities to feel resentment, nurture hurt, replay old grievances and simmer with justified anger. Listen to what Archbishop Desmond Tutu has to say about forgiveness. He has been involved in reconciliation projects in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Reader 3: ‘When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person, too.’

Leader: What is being said here is that you and the person who hurt you, whatever they have done, are linked, and the process of forgiveness enables the link to be broken. What binds you are all those feelings of resentment and hurt. Forgiveness can be the scissors that cut the bond and enable you to understand and move on.

Forgiveness is never easy; it can be incredibly hard to achieve, even for small things. Emotional hurt, the shock of being a victim, can last a long time, even a lifetime. But beginning to forgive can help that recovery. Gee Walker still mourns for her son, but when asked why she chose to forgive, she talked about her faith, saying, ‘I have to practise what I preach.’ As a committed Christian, she follows Jesus’ example of forgiving others, even those who crucified him. On the cross, Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

So next time you are hurting because of what someone has done to you, think of the examples of forgiveness we have looked at today. Even if you begin in a small way, when you start and repeat the practice of forgiveness, it becomes like a drip of water: over time, it wears away the stone, and enables you to understand and move on.

Time for reflection

Prayer
Dear God,
Grant us the ability to forgive, even if we find it hard.
Let us see that forgiving people enables us to move on.
Let us follow the example of Gee Walker, and in turn, the example given to us by Jesus, and forgive.
May we also understand that forgiveness is an emotion that will take time to understand, but with your help, we can.
Amen.

Song/music

‘God forgave my sin’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 167, 2008 edition)

Publication date: November 2016   (Vol.18 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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