I woke up one morning in a funk. Nothing in particular had sparked my foul mood, but I could not seem to stomp it out. It was a normal day. The little kids and I played and cleaned the house while the big kids were at school. I tried hard to ignore the dark gloom that seemed to be tugging at me, and I carried on with my normal routine with it constantly hanging over me.
As morning turned into afternoon, I got a call that brought a smile to my face. Rob had had his bail revoked, and was heading back to jail. It was a miracle!!! I was giddy as I went about the rest of my day. Finally, something was going my way, and he was going back to where he had belonged all along. He had killed my husband and he deserved to be back in jail. Just knowing I no longer had the possibility of running into him on the streets brought peace to my soul, but on an even deeper level, I was happy justice was being served.
The alarm on my phone soon sounded to remind me to go pick up the big kids from school. I loaded the little ones in my car and drove to the school. I couldn’t wait to tell the twins about Rob’s new “home.” I knew it would calm some of their fears, as it had mine.
As I drove, I thought back to the nights they had tapped me on my shoulder to ask about “the bad guy.” I thought of the hours spent holding them as they cried in my arms about the father they would never again see, and about their fear of the man who had taken him from them. I thought of their whispers in the silence about a stranger they would never meet and never be able to forgive for the pain he had caused. I thought about all that Rob did to deserve his time in jail. I was happy he was getting locked up again. I was angry for the punishments my children had been forced to endure because of him, and I was grateful that the justice system was sending him back to the life he deserved.
I pulled up to the school. I could see the twins walking toward our meeting place. I jumped out of the car and with a skip in my step I ran toward them. Once their hands were in mine, I kneeled down to whisper the news. “Girls, so you know how scared you have been since you found out all those months ago that the man who shot Daddy was getting out of jail? Well . . . guess what? Today . . . he . . . he made some choices that got his bail taken away . . . and so, he has to go back to jail!” I was grinning and excited for my babies who had cried through all those nights, worried this man would somehow come into their rooms. I was happy to tell them that the man who had shot and killed their dad was back in jail, locked up. I was proud that I got to deliver this declaration of their safety to them.
They didn’t look up; both of them still stared at the ground and didn’t say a word. Almost in desperation to see their excitement, I announced it again. “Girls . . . doesn’t that make you happy to know that justice is being served . . . that he . . . is . . . in jail?” I tried so hard to get them to make eye contact with me. “I thought this might make you guys happy that the man who killed Daddy is not going to be out of jail anymore. They are putting him back in jail! . . . So . . . he . . . is . . . not . . .out . . . of jail anymore.” Still no response.
A few seconds went by, and finally a sound came from my silent crowd. Bailey burst into tears, and sobbed “But what about HIS kids mom? They still have a chance to have a dad. If he goes back to jail, they don’t get a dad . . . just like us.” I was dumbfounded. This little girl I’d held in the night as she had sworn up and down she would never forgive “the bad guy,” was now in tears for him?
Bostyn finally looked up at me. “Mom, Bailey and I have been talking a lot about this,” she said as a small tear fell from her eyes, “and we . . . we will forgive him now. We just . . .What about his kids? They might need their dad. If we could have Daddy back, we would . . . but they still can. If he goes back to jail, then all of us lost our dads.”
My heart dropped. All the excitement that had gotten me through the day quickly faded. Because of my bitterness and desire for revenge, I had spent my afternoon excited that Rob had been punished for breaking the rules and was getting sent back to jail. I had anticipated that the moment I told my children about it would be healing and uplifting for them, but it wasn’t. Not because they knew him personally, or would benefit from his remaining free . . . but because they had learned to have compassion.
It wasn’t until my two six-year-olds took my hand and taught me about empathy and forgiveness that I realized how wrong my celebration had been. I had spent months building up more hate and bitterness, while my daughters had taken those same months to find love and compassion for a man who had wronged them—a lesson, I had taught them . . . but had forgotten to apply to myself.
What a humbling moment I had that day. I was not the exception to the lessons of truth I had preached. Maybe Rob had hurt me, and maybe his poor choices had gotten him where he was . . . but I had to learn to let it go. Though his actions had shattered my family, it was my hatred that was killing my heart. I had to become like my little daughters: patient, compassionate, humble, and full of love . . . even for the man who had killed their father and made me a widow.
We are all here on earth together. We are going to wrong each other and cause others to feel pain. Sometimes we will be the one in the wrong, and other times we will be the ones who are wronged. Does that mean we can’t still have compassion for each other? I learned that afternoon that forgiveness is real, not just in words . . . but in our hearts. Empathy is possible, even through our pain.
My twins walked in Rob’s shoes that day, and felt the loss his family was going to have to live with. I wasn’t that strong, but their reminder of empathy was not just enlightening . . . it was humbling. I was the mother—and yet they were my teachers.
What does it mean to walk in others’ shoes? It means actually trying to feel what they feel, and trying to see what they see. It means taking a step outside of ourselves to see another point of view. As adults, we have trained ourselves to think that our way is the best way. We have become stuck in what we can see, and we think that we have the only answers. It usually isn’t easy for us to look at something from a new perspective.
Often, it’s our children who show us what it means to have empathy: empathy for a family member, a friend, a stranger, and even a murderer. They can show us how to see the world while standing in someone else’s shoes.
A lesson I had taught a million times with words became real that day. As I walked hand in hand back to my car with my babies, I felt strength from them to develop that empathy myself.
Forgiveness is real. Being able to achieve it is within our reach. Maybe it isn’t as simple as it was for my two little twins, crying tears for the children of a man who had killed their father . . . but if they can do it—so can we.
Have compassion for those who have hurt you. Find love for those who have let you down. Seek to feel empathy for those who need it the most. God will be the ultimate judge. It is Him who will have the final say. We aren’t required to be the judge for anyone . . . but ourselves.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 64:10, we read this commandment from God:
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
It is a lesson I am still learning, and one that hasn’t come easily for me. To truly forgive, we must have compassion. To have compassion, we must be able to love. And to truly love, we must give God our whole heart. He is the only source of eternal love we will find on this earth. The power He can give us can strengthen all the relationships with which we have been blessed, and can help us develop love for complete strangers, even for those who may have caused us pain.
Jesus Christ has felt your pain. He has counted every tear. He died for you that even you can be forgiven for the wrongs you have committed. Even you can be forgiven for the times when you have been too full of pride, hatred or anger to forgive.
We may never forget our pain. Sometimes the scars run too deep to completely disappear . . . but we can rise above our pain. The atonement of Jesus Christ truly covers all pain. It diminishes the scars; it eases the burdens. It can bring miracles to our lives.
There is a song I have sung many times in my life. I love it for its simple message.
Greater Miracles by Hilary Weeks
Have you any that are sick? Bring them here, He will heal them.
Have you any that are lame, bent in pain, hurt or yearning?
Bring them all old and young and He will lift them up.
He will make them whole.
And if they put their faith in Him they shall see greater miracles than these.
Have you children who are blind? Bring them here, He will bless them.
He will truly make them see wondrous things when you let them.
Go to Him on bended knee and He will lift them up.
He will make them whole.
And if they put their faith in Him they shall see
Greater miracles than these.
Did you know that He can heal the widow’s broken heart?
That His love can change your life, save a world torn apart?
Did you know that He holds the earth and sky at His command?
But when you feel forgiveness come, then you’ll understand.
That’s the miracle. The greatest miracle.
Do your burdens weigh you down?
Go to Him. He will lift them.
As your brother as your friend, He has love enough for all men.
Trust in Him, take His hand.
And He will lift you up, He will make you whole.
And if you put your faith in Him, you shall see
Greater miracles than these. Greater miracles than these.
The miracle that day was not that Rob was going back to jail. It was that my daughters showed me how to feel empathy. They taught me, by their example, about forgiveness and love. They showed me what true compassion is, and what I could strive to become one day. They reminded me that even the sinners deserve to be set free—maybe not into the world—but from the hatred in our hearts. They showed me that even I, a victim, could find a way to be a survivor.
And that was the miracle . . . the greatest miracle.
Questions to Ponder:
How can you use the example of others to better choose forgiveness and set aside anger?