The Power of Forgiveness
New documentary film airs this month on PBS stations nationwide.
The potential good that can come from forgiveness is the subject of a provocative new documentary film airing this month on national public television.
The Power of Forgiveness from Journey Films, makers of the critically acclaimed Bonhoeffer, is a collection of short stories revealing how forgiveness could or should displace conventional responses, such as vengeance and justice, in resolving conflict. The film also connects personal forgiveness with better health, pointing out that blood pressure levels are lower in people who readily forgive.
"Forgiveness has struck a chord," says Journey Films founder Martin Doblmeier. "[It's] the first step in a new direction."
For 16 months Doblmeier traveled around the world gathering stories that explore how forgiveness can alleviate resentment, hatred and sorrow.
In Northern Ireland, where generations of Protestants and Catholics pass down painful memories of injustice, public schools have begun incorporating forgiveness in curriculums. Officials call it "planting forgiveness" in children—a long-term approach to combating revenge-based cycles of pain.
"In most communities ... we find lots of company in our anger, [but] we're often alone in the pathways that lead to forgiveness," Doblmeier told Detroit Free Press religion reporter David Crumm.
Doblmeier shows how the Amish in rural Pennsylvania helped the whole world see the healing power of forgiveness in October 2006 after five of their community's young girls were shot and killed in a schoolhouse by a man who then turned the gun on himself. The Christian community forgave the gunman's family almost immediately.
"Retribution is not part of [the Amish] vocabulary," Donald B. Kraybill, author of Amish Grace, says in the film. "The community helps them absorb the hatred."
But to even talk about forgiveness, one should never begin by asking people to first forgive their enemies, says James Forbes, retired pastor of New York's Riverside Church. "First, let them think about how much forgiveness God has had to grant them," he says. "They have had to make withdrawals from the bank of grace many, many times."
Although the film includes comments from non-Christians, such as Elie Wiesel, Thich Nhat Hanh and Marianne Williamson, Doblmeier drew from his Christian roots to explore the centrality of forgiveness in one's life. "Hopefully with [this film], people will take a moment and reflect on their own lives and the role forgiveness plays in how we treat others and ourselves," he says.
Paul Steven Ghiringhelli
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