by keb

While it may not be so in all languages, in English, forgive has the word “give” in it. So I ask myself, what does forgiveness “give” people?

I heard a story once, as told by the late Chief Blue of the Catawba Indian nation:

One day my eleven-year-old son went squirrel hunting with six other Indians. He saw a squirrel run up a tree and climbed up to scare it out on a limb. After he had done this he called to the others to hold their fire until he could get down. One of the Indians in the hunting party had always been jealous of me and my position as chief. He and his son both shot deliberately at my boy. He was filled with buckshot from his knees to his head. The Indians carried my boy towards home and found a spot where they lay him while they ran for the doctor.

A friend came and found me and said, “Sam, run home at once; your boy has been shot.” I ran all the way home and found my boy near death. The doctor was there and said my boy would not live. He was right; the boy died in a few minutes.

The man and son who had done the shooting were in my front yard visiting with members of the crowd that had gathered. They did not appear to be upset at their deed. My heart filled with revenge and hatred. Something seemed to whisper to me, “If you don’t take down your gun and kill that man who murdered your son, Sam Blue, you are a coward.”

Now I have been a Mormon ever since I have been a young lad and I knew it would not be right to take revenge. I decided to pray to the Lord about it. I walked to my secret place out in the timber where I always have gone to pray alone when I have a special problem, and there I prayed to the Lord to take revenge out of my heart. I soon felt better and started back to the house. But again I heard something inside whisper, again I turned back and prayed until I felt better. On my way back to the house I again heard the voice say, “Sam Blue, you are a coward.” I turned again and went back to pray and this time I told the Lord he must help me or I would be a killer. I asked him to take revenge out of my heart and keep it out. I felt good when I got up from praying. I went back to the house a third time and when I reached the house I went out and shook hands with the Indian who had killed my boy. There was no hatred or desire for revenge in my heart.

I’ve always been intrigued by this story. The chief’s persistence at obtaining ability to forgive has been a lesson for me countless times. I see three instances of giving in this example. First, Chief Blue gave himself the opportunity to have the strength to forgive his son’s murderers by praying. Second, after struggling within himself and calling to a higher power, Chief Blue was given the gift to be able to forgive those who wronged him from God. Third, he gave the man who killed his son forgiveness.

Even unrepentant, the guilty were forgiven. By giving the gift of forgiveness, the chief gave himself the gift of love and peace. He was healed by One who has the capacity to give us the power to overcome such burdens.

The reason I love this story is that it shows that a human man, with God’s help, can forgive those who wronged him – even unrepentant as they were.

There may be people on our lives who have hurt us, intentionally or unintentionally. Some may have repented and feel bad. Some may not care at all. But we have access to the One who can heal all wounds. We read of His miracles to cure those physically afflicted, and they are amazing and wondrous. But the real miracle is the emotional and spiritual healing that the Son of God as the capacity and willingness to do.

We just need to ask. Then give by forgiving.

Update: My father gave me even more insight on the word forgive. We looked at it as two words Fore Give. We wondered if the true meaning of forgiving was to give it to the individual who wronged us, even before they have any remorse.