Forgiveness is a healing process.
These words were spoken by a teenage girl. We had been studying conflict and violence when the class asked me to focus on forgiveness for the next lesson. They wanted to know everything there is to know. I started the lesson by asking them what they knew about it, and this was her answer. Forgiveness is a healing process.
Eight months later, with one week until I return to South Sudan, her words echo in my mind. Much has unfolded since she spoke these words. The grass in South Sudan has suffered a great deal, though it was, and is, not only the elephants fighting. How long will the fighting go on? I should say here that I am no expert on South Sudan. I see dimly into the cultural, historical, political and religious context. But I do know conflict. I know it intimately. I have had my fair share of conflicts on all sorts of earth, including South Sudanese earth.
Conflict is part of life. No matter what we do, no matter how peacefully we try or want to live, conflict will arise. We are human. And no matter how far I think I have come, I often get angry when it does. I am human.
I think anger is ok sometimes. There is a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. I have been feeling a lot of anger this past month. I really do believe some of it is justified, but I also think it is important for me to choose wisely. Anger can take us in a number of directions. We can grow bitter or resentful or vengeful; or we can grow.
Though I may have some grasp on my own anger, I don't pretend to understand the anger or the bitterness or the sorrow or the loss or the devastation or the hopelessness a South Sudanese person might feel; might have been feeling their whole life. I also know forgiveness is not easy. And I am still learning how to forgive. But perhaps this teenage girl has something to offer us all. She did not say forgiveness is easy. She did not say it is quick. She said it is a process. A healing process.
I think she was right. I think growth, when we're angry, is choosing to heal. I think it is being brave enough to face the wound in all its pain, crying out when we need to, and allowing time and care to heal it. And at some point along the way, we look back at the person who inflicted the pain and wonder what wounds they carry.
I think this is when forgiveness begins.