Shades of Forgiveness

Editorial, Upington Post.

The emotional scenes outside court this week, spoke volumes. As the two convicted men were taken to prison, the crowd outside the courthouse displayed a spectrum of reactions.

“They deserve to be hanged,” a bereaved old man shouted. His son was one of the victims. “They murdered my son and killed my faith. I have nothing to live for anymore.”

A woman who refused to be identified, sat on the pavement, crying softly. “The tall one is the father of my son. I never thought he was involved with something like this. My life is ruined – I have nothing left.”

Off to one side, a jeering group of youths chanted the old ANC slogan, One settler, one bullet, cheering as the bewildered two men got into the police van. Not far away from them, a television crew filmed their performance for the SABC. The producer urged the cameraman nearer, but was horrified when a youth grabbed the camera and ran off with it.

The two men however, remained silent. During the hearing, both pleaded not guilty, blaming their crimes as a legacy of Apartheid. During cross-examination, it was evident that – although they claimed a political motive for their attacks – neither man could explain why a policy that became extinct twenty years ago, should be the motive for their murders.

As the van drove off, the lawyers for the state and the defence were seen heading to the Oasis Casino, after shaking hands.

In The Upington Post’s opinion, justice was served. Sadly, that is all that happened during the trial. The huge rifts in our society will need much more than a court case to heal. The crime was punished but the question remains: how to you reprove the polarisation in our community?

Oudoom’s sermon.

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. You all know the verse, and we all pray it at times. Yet, while we expect God to forgive us, we are rather reluctant to keep our part of the bargain. Have we not all sinned?

“Yet, John teaches us that He is true: if we confess our sins, He will forgive us.

“And that, my Brothers and Sisters, is the key. Confessing. If you don’t acknowledge our wrongs, He can’t forgive us. And confessing without remorse is not confessing – you have to admit your transgression … and be sorry about it.  Once you’ve  told yourself and those you’ve harmed that you’re truly, truly sorry, you may hope for forgiveness.

“So forgiveness starts with you, not with God. It’s not something you can demand. It’s not there for the asking or the taking. We can’t go on strike until God relents and tells us its okay, we are forgiven. We have to admit first, showing true repentance, before His grace will cover our sins.

“And that is true for our everyday transgressions.  Nobody will forgive you if you don’t have the courage to tell them you’re sorry. Think about it: if you feel you are wronged and the perpetrator simply laughs at you – won’t you feel cheated? Won’t you feel hatred? And won’t you want revenge? But if that person comes to you with genuine regret in his heart – won’t that start the healing process we call forgiveness?”

Boggel’s Place

“I’m sorry for those family members. Did you see the old man who lost his son? He wept through the entire case. He’s a broken man, I can tell you.” Sammie attended the proceedings in Upington and kept Rolbos informed about the case. “And there were others – mothers, wives, sons and daughters. Something like this will leave a permanent scar in anybody’s life. It can’t heal.”

“You’re right – and you’re wrong,” Gertruida pats him on the back to show she doesn’t want an argument. “The scar will remain – but healing will follow. People talk about closure, and they attain that in different ways. Some will feel that justice took its course and they must now close the book. Others will seek solace in faith and religion, believing in Divine justice – that God will sort the perpetrators out in some way. Some individuals will blame politics and direct their anger and sorrow at the government – allowing themselves an outlet for their emotion. Whatever they do – these men and women will find a way to distance themselves from the crimes they have suffered with. And with that distance between you and your suffering, you allow your immediate circumstances to dominate your thoughts. That’s called healing – or closure.

“People think forgiveness means you embrace the wrong that was done to you; that in the act of forgiving, you somehow tell everybody it’s okay. That’s wrong. You can never condone sin. You can’t convince yourself that the murder of your wife or child is okay. What you can do, is to reject the crime in no uncertain terms – but you still have to live with yourself afterwards. You cannot carry the burden of hate for the rest of your life.

“Forgiving doesn’t mean you forget. You can never forget. But you have to get closure. You have to experience healing.  You can be kind enough towards yourself and tell yourself that you are not going to carry the smouldering wrath of hate with you for the rest of your life. You can tell the criminal he’s not important enough to occupy your mind all the time. You can accept that something horrible happened but that it’s not going to rule your thoughts.

“The ultimate form of revenge is forgiveness. That is closure. That is healing.”

Upington Prison

“Hai, Bru, we’re going to be here a long time.” The taller one stares at the small window of the cell. “We’re going to be old men when we get out of here.”

“Oh, shut up!” The smaller Bru is angry. Spending a lifetime in jail was not what he planned for. “I saw that other guy in here – the one we teamed up with for that farm near Vosburg. He’s planning an escape. He wants us to join him.”

“No, Bru. Don’t talk like that. We did wrong. We got punished. I want a new start – even if it’ll only happen when I’m an old man. I don’t want to be on the run for the rest of my life.”

Upington Post.

In a dramatic attempt to escape, two prisoners were killed when they crashed the police van they stole. The men apparently bribed a warden to get to the vehicle, after which they smashed through the security barriers at the prison. However, they lost control of the vehicle on the gravel road to Prieska when they tried to outrun the chasing vehicles. Both men were killed instantly when a tyre burst.

The police spokesman denied that the police shot at the wheels of the fleeing vehicle.

Upington Prison

“Hai, Pastor, thank you for coming. I need to talk to you.”

Oudoom seems uncomfortable in the confined space of the visitor’s room. Is this what this man has to live with for the next two decades? Looking into the pleading eyes of the tall man, he tries to relax. “It’s okay. Take your time. Lord knows, that’s all you’ve got.”

(Something to try: Replace the word “Pretend” with “Forgive” and “Pretending” with “Forgiving” (especially later in the song), and see what the song does for you..)

10 thoughts on “Shades of Forgiveness

  1. thehappyhugger

    Amos, your writing is profound. I find the subject of forgiveness to be so complex. On paper, logically, spiritually it is the right thing to do and most of the time I think people desperately want to forgive, but there are often so many deeply interwoven emotions that make forgiveness so difficult to do…

    I love your suggestion of changing the words of the song – it makes an already beautiful song even more beautiful.


    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      I think we all struggle (a lot) with forgiveness, coming from a background of fairness and respect to all people, it is hard to forgive somebody that doesn’t. Still, it’s the only way to move ahead and in that, like they say, lies the rub. Nat King Cole sure helps me when I sing those words to myself… Thanks for reading Huggs.


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