Learning to Forgive the Colorado Shooter

The fact that a victim of the Colorado tragedy can forgive the shooter shows us how to truly be human.

By + More

When I hear the word forgiveness, two things crop into my mind: 1. Don Henley singing the song "Heart of the Matter," and 2. what Christianity is supposed to be based on.

Now don't worry, this is not a blog about religion; it's a blog about forgiveness.

Pierce O'Farrill, a 28-year-old who was shot not once, but three times in last week's massacare in Aurora, Colo., said of alleged gunman James Holmes; "Of course I forgive him with all my heart ... When I saw him in his hearing, I felt nothing but sorrow for him—he's just a lost soul right now." This O'Farrill said after being released from the University of Colorado Hospital after being treated for his wounds. In short, Mr. O'Farrill has forgiven the man who has been accused of trying, unsucessfully, to kill him.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Pierce O'Farrill is a better person than I.

O'Farill's forgiveness reminded me of the Los Angeles riots. I remember years back, sitting in my livingroom in New York, watching as the body of a man we came to know as Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck. He was beaten, repeatedly, and all of it caught on video. I also remember my jaw dropping to the ground aa Denny, in a packed Los Angeles courtroom, stated he had "forgiven" the men who had beat him.

Now my mother, a very strong practicing born-again Christian (shocking that her offspring is such a progressive, liberal, Democrat, huh?!) would say that forgiving is actually selfish because it's harder to hate and the hate will eat you alive. Now mothers may always be right, but that is a concept I have yet to wrap my head around and certainly have not been able to put into practice.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Does the Colorado Shooting Prove the Need for More Gun Control Laws?]

I also remember reading that at the end of the Holocaust, when the American troops liberated certain concentration camps, there were instances when the German guards of those camps were tied up in the midst of the general population. The desire by those camp victims to get even, to hurt those guards, must have been strong, but their choice to be better than that, not to stoop to the level of their oppressor, the people who tried to take their lives, won in the end.

Many of us, myself included, would find it understandable for the victims of the Colorado theater shooting and their families to want to seek retribution. But some, in hearing O'Farrill's desire to tell the alleged gunman "I forgive you,"  "Can I pray for you?" (O'Farrill is on staff at the Christian Denver Rescue Mission charity), might see things differently.

So when I think of getting even, vindication, vengeance, etc., as only "being human," perhaps it is those who forgive that are truly being human. It's certainly something to consider.

  • Read Peter Roff: At the Olympics, Silence is Not Golden
  • Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy