Sister Mary Lou Knownacki is my "go to" person for "forgiveness inspirations. She seems to always say what I wish I could not only say, but do. What particularly strikes me is the example of Phan Thi Kim Phuc. Here is the famous picture of her running naked down a road with her back on fire from napalm during the Vietnam War. The young soldier, John Plummer, who organized and participated in the air strike on her village in 1972 was haunted by that Pulitzer Prize winning photo.
Kim Phuc underwent plastic surgery, married, defected to Canada and became a spokesperson for UNESCO. She forgave him and moved on.
But John Plummer returned home racked with guilt, divorced, turned to alcohol, and then met his second wife, who led him to God and eventually to serve as a minister. Plummer said he thought about Kim Phuc every day and wanted to tell her how sorry he was but could not summon the courage to contact her.
Then in 1996, Kim Phuc was the main speaker at a special service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Plummer went to the observance and heard Kim Phuc say that if she met the pilot of the plane she would tell him she forgives him and that they cannot change the past but she would hope they both could work together to build the future.
Through friends, Plummer got the word to Phuc that the soldier she wanted to meet was there. "She saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow," Plummer wrote. "She held her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry' over and over again. At the same time, she was saying 'It's all right. It's all right. I forgive. I forgive.'" Kim Phuc and Rev. Plummer met many times after that and even worked together on a few projects. Kim Phuc, who lost two brothers in that 1972 bombing raid, now considers Plummer her brother. Plummer says, "She's the closest thing to a saint I ever met."
Forgiveness is so necessary. Otherwise, bitterness festers. It's a wound that won't heal. And the offender can't heal it. Only the wounded person can heal it because the wounded person maintains it.
Only the wounded person can free themselves from the burden of hurts. If we're honest with ourselves we might see that maybe our side of the story isn't the only side. Do we even remember clearly what happened? Are we really sure it was intentional? Mary Lou Knownack asks, "Is there anyone we wouldn't love, if we only knew their story?" Do we pray to forgive?