Many people, including those who saw me on the “Sixty Minutes” program and ABC TV’s “Australian Story”, have asked many questions relating to what I understand by forgiveness. Does forgiveness mean that I am condoning the action? Some of the answers I gave are interwoven in this E-report.
Forgiveness has been an ongoing process for me, culminating two years ago, (that is, after 14 years), in having a face-to-face meeting with the murderer of my daughters. It was a Conferencing Program under the auspices of the Correctional Services, in Grafton Jail in February 2001. I went through my forgiveness process, ensuring that Richard Maddrell understood the process, and I unconditionally forgave Richard Maddrell for the murder of Jenny, Kirsty and Lexie.
By forgiving him, people may think that I ‘pardon’ him and that perhaps by this I mean that Richard Maddrell should be free, however this is not the case. I do not condone the action. I think that Richard Maddrell, should be in jail for life, principally for the protection of the community. If Richard Maddrell is freed, I could handle it – this is Man’s Law. Neither do I resent Richard Maddrell and I have no hatred, bitterness or hostility towards him – if I have any feeling towards him, it is one of compassion. I believe that the forgiveness process is far deeper than the words imply – it involves spirituality. My process is between me and God
A Letter, With A Challenging Question
The question was in regard to someone who was released from detention and exposed again by media. I have taken the licence to either change wording or leave out some words to preserve confidentiality.
I have witnessed a similar situation but from the other side.
When I was contracting for a Government Department, a new person joined us. His name seemed familiar – but I could not place it. He worked hard and conscientiously, always friendly, always helpful. He seemed to treat each day as a gift rather than an expectation.
Then one of the local papers decided to do an article on ‘rehabilitated criminals’. It turned out that my co-worker was an ex bank-robber and a rapist. And that my manager (for whom I had great respect) had been involved with drugs and attempted murder.
For several weeks their lives were misery. The department, with standard government knee-jerk reaction, tried to get them dismissed on the spot.
Questions were asked, and fingers pointed. Finally it all blew over, but the effect on them was saddening. I wondered how they themselves could heal when no-one else would let them.
I truly felt for them. They had done their time, served their prison sentence and as my manager was now a committed Christian I could see how his past deeds weighed on his conscience.
Thankfully it is people like yourself who have the inner strength to go on, and forgive, that can enable people who have committed crimes to mend their lives and go on to be better human beings.
For that example … I thank you.
There are a few things that are mixed together here. One is Man’s Law, one is God’s Law and then there is Society. In this case, after they had served their sentence (Man’s Law) they were burdened by Society. This also may be a way that God’s Law plays a part in that things done in the past can never really be buried but we must come to terms with them in such a way that thinking about them doesn’t cause pain. Pain caused through guilt can often be handled by “I have done the best that I could with the tools that I had at the time. Now that I know more, I will do better next time”.
I have had cause to write about this before and I will include that below – with some adjustments – in attempting to address the issue. It’s written as though it is going to somebody who has offended.
Once again? thank you for taking the time to write to me – I understand your concerns for the people you mentioned in your letter.
Expectations – Part Of A Letter Written To An Offender
Our journey through life and the experiences it brings us is often referred to as Karma. A belief that I subscribe to is that negative Karma must be balanced as we move onward through life. It’s a fact that we have blocks in our lives. (I have discussed this in a previous E-report.) Sometimes these blocks can be avoided by “walking around them”. Have you ever noticed that when you do “avoid” a block it surfaces again, only this time it’s a bit bigger. The blocks can grow from mini minor size to truck size, to jumbo size, to train size, until it can no longer be avoided. Then we must work with it, to get through it, and learn the lessons that come out of dealing with it. These lessons are experiences for our soul. In spiritual terms it is the job of the higher self to ensure we learn life’s lessons.
In much the same way we can have experiences in life that we don’t deal with. An example of this is the journey by many soldiers dealing with experiences in Vietnam. Indeed, even the Government of the day aided and abetted soldiers to put their memories behind them by advising soldiers to not congregate in pubs and talk about their experiences. “The war is over for you. It’s only one year out of your life. Put it out of your mind. The people don’t like it, and ……so on.” So memories were pushed down and sometimes “forgotten”. Where to? To memory. Where is Memory? In the subconscious mind. How does the subconscious mind handle it? This is the dream mind, so “hot sweats”, “nightmares”, are common, as is “irrational action” and “unexplained anger”. This is called Post Traumatic Stress with Repressed Memory. The ex soldier has to handle this and come to terms with it or, go through their experiences, not “push them down”.
I don’t pretend to understand what has happened to you, nor to understand “prison justice” or “society justice” – perhaps I could call this an extension of “man’s law”. What has come up for me is that others in Society may believe that the debt has not yet been paid in full. Let me go a step further – when one is released from custody, my thinking is that the media may eventually find out and therefore the public will know as well. In other words the release will be public knowledge and this could make things harder for anyone in these circumstances.
I think, prepare for this eventuality – don’t put it out of your mind. I know, that you know, that you did commit an enormous crime. You have made great strides towards coming to terms with this by expressing your remorse. You may have further to go, so don’t push down the event and try to forget it – you must, for your sanity, come to terms with it. So how do you do that – come to terms with it
I think the ultimate process is the same one that I went through – acceptance, co-operation, unconditional love and forgiveness.
One thought, at the commencement of this process, is to separate the event (the crime you committed) from the deeper inner you. The deeper inner you is the spark of God within you, or the soul. The event is an experience that your soul has and now it’s up to you as to how you handle that. It is the lessons from the event that the soul will experience. So when you do the process of forgiveness, bring to mind that part of you that is the deeper inner you and forgive yourself. (You may be really angry with yourself – if this is the case then the anger must be handled before the forgiveness process can take place). Forgiving yourself can be coupled with asking God for forgiveness. All these processes are best done in deep meditation.
Whilst you go through all of these inner processes then “Man’s Law”, “Society’s Law”, and “Prison Justice” has to be handled. It is handled by the personality which will draw strength from these inner processes. Whatever happens in the jail, or once you are released, or when you are free in society, can be cruel. You will be reminded of the event in many different ways and it is not until you’ve “handled it” will you be able to deal with these circumstances by drawing on your inner strength.
So, in conclusion, don’t push down the event, handle it with co-operation, acceptance, unconditional love and forgiveness and you will be able to deal satisfactorily with “Society”.
Self Forgiveness Is Just As Big A Challenge
I mentioned forgiving self in my answer above. In my original letter I also gave some specific advice on the way forward with the help of a Staff Counsellor. Self Forgiveness is a big topic and I don’t expect anyone new to the subject to understood it overnight. It is something that needs to be experienced.
There is no doubt that Forgiveness and Self Forgiveness go together. It’s like 2 sides of the same coin. Often we find that we can’t forgive ourselves because of some awful thing that we have done. “Awful” in whose judgement? Here’s a thought. If we can bring ourselves to thinking “I’ve done the best that I could do with the tools that I had – I’ll do better next time” then this will help the process, because we are fallible beings.
A Way To Start – When It’s Really Tough
I find that when we can’t forgive somebody for something, then we need to understand what we are doing to ourselves. Anger, hostility, blame, judgement, guilt … can only lead to sickness within ourselves. 50,000 times a day we talk to ourselves! Who Listens? Negative thoughts attract negative thoughts. So where does this process end up? By being another victim – and, who caused it? Yes you did of course. So now to the Choice Point! I don’t want to be another victim! I also have responsibility to myself, my family, my friends and to those who rely on me.
I have also found that giving yourself permission to just examine and find out about the process of forgiveness is a good first step. And, once again this statement will help: “They’ve done the best that they could do – they don’t know any better – perhaps they’ll do better next time.” I find that the best way to do all of this is in meditation, with guided imagery. Meditation provides a wonderful vehicle for moving on and not remaining stuck.
So, I’d like to share how I experienced a feeling of freedom, liberation, and a sense of lightness and felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders after I had my face-to-face meeting. I will never again wonder how I would react if confronted by the murderer of my daughters. The monkey is off my back.
All the Best