Forgiving a Murderer

My brother’s death was hard on anyone who knew him. He was so funny and had the cutest smile with the deepest dimples. He was older than me but we were super close growing up. Him and I had each other.

 As kids we would get a couple of metal trash can lids and use them as drums in our “band”. Josh’s sense of humor was a little dirty..ok… a lot dirty. Sometimes he said things and I would think, “oh my gosh that was so gross!!” But then I would laugh so hard because at the same time it was super clever and so funny and I was incredibly immature. His ability to make someone laugh was also his defense mechanism. The kid could be on the verge of getting his face ripped off, by me, but then would make me laugh and I wouldn’t have the desire to go after him anymore. It really did save his life more than once. Even after he nicknamed me Ethiopian man, due to my very dark skin in the summer, full mustache  and uni-brow, weighing in at about 70 pounds. The nickname stuck and so did, young and the breastless. See, clever.

 It was just him and I at home so when we fought it was MMA. Welcome to the octagon baby! Watch out McGregor you have two Irish kids trying to kill each other. Yes, I have a good amount of Irish in me, and yes, I am brown. 

When he died and no one was punished for the crime, I was angry. Just writing angry seems so wrong because that word doesn’t even describe the feelings I had when I heard the police say, “The testimonies are only as good as the witnesses giving it and they won’t talk.” 
You can murder someone and get away with it? 
Let me rephrase that. 
You can murder someone in the ghetto and get away with it? Yes. In this case that’s exactly what happened. The people who pushed my brother over the rail are off living their lives.  

2nd Greatest commandment…”Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Nope. That doesn’t seem possible right now.

After all my mom and family went through! Watching him first be tortured and then watching him die a long slow death. Having to make the decision to take him off of life support. You want me to love the offender who got away with it? You want me to forgive the person who is currently walking around free living his life with my brother’s blood on his hands? You want me to love them like I love myself? 

A few years after my brother died I started to maybe consider not thinking hateful thoughts about the people involved. That was my first step. To maybe think about doing something. I planted the seed. That was as far as I could go at that point. God knew that was all I could give right then. 

About a year later I did stop thinking about going on a hunting spree. No tags required. 

I was teaching my kids about forgiveness and how it is a commandment from God no matter the offense we are commanded to forgive. We will actually be, “more in trouble” for not forgiving. After hearing myself say this over and over again I realized, I’m a hypocrite!!! I would think, “You are such a hypocrite Aricka!!” and then I would quickly give myself the excuse, well they killed my brother, it’s not like they just hurt my feelings. I have every right to hate them and not forgive! 

“Every right”? There’s that entitlement again that gets people into trouble.

When did I become entitled to pick and choose which commandments I follow? Or dissect them to my liking? 
When did I bleed out of every pour for the sins of others? 

I don’t remember scheduling that into my calendar. 

I do remember praying on my knees in my closet for forgiveness for screaming at my kids just because I was tired and then receiving comfort.

After really wanting to forgive. Wanting is the key word in that sentence. If we aren’t truly wanting something then its hard to change. I smoked for four years, a pack a day and when I knew I wanted to be done. I quit. Cold turkey and never smoked again. I just knew, I was stopping. I strongly believe that if there is something in your power to get, you can get it if you really want it.

I really did want to forgive. I started to read any book I could get my hands on that dealt with forgiving others. I was reading 3 books a week to aid in my long hard road of forgiveness and also keep me on a path of healing. Then I read something that changed my whole thinking. It completely changed my perspective.

Jesus Christ took upon our sins. Every sin we have made or will make. Big or small. He sacrificed Himself so we had the choice to repent and be forgiven. When we choose not to forgive our trespassers we are ultimately saying, that wasn’t good enough. What else you got? I will wait for something more.

I thought about all the times I asked for forgiveness and received it. I realized the mercy God had on me. That changed the way I viewed the men who killed my brother. I remembered the mercy God had on my brother after he cursed Him and turned his back on Him.

When I changed the way I looked at the offenders it helped me to forgive them. I saw them as children of God. They had every right to be forgiven through repentance. I was forgiven for my sins when I asked. It wasn’t my choice to forgive them or not. I was not going to become a sinner due to not choosing forgiveness. I wanted to heal so I needed to forgive.

You can’t drink poison and expect someone else to die.
Anger, hate, vengefulness, contempt are all poisons to the soul and body. Not to mention the harm it does to the mind. The offender still has control over you when you don’t let go of that hate and heal.

 When you want to forgive, when you want to heal, when you want to move on, when you want to stop being the victim and become the survivor, you can! 
To truly heal is to forgive, so that you can become the warrior that you are. 

When you choose not to forgive, that’s a whole other story where you become the offender, to God. 

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