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{02/09/2012}   Forgiveness

Team GB Paralympic Beijing gold and silver medallist Simon Richardson, a cyclist, was cycling (safely and responsibly) along a road one morning in August last year when a 60-year old farmer, having knocked back a whisky that morning, after a heavy night of drinking, got into his car and set off, drunk.  He hit Richardson on his bike, which flung him into the air and rendered him unable to compete in the 2012 Paralympics.  The drunk driver drove off and tried to hide his van.  Fortunately, by the next day he (still twice the legal drink drive alcohol limit) and the van were found and he was eventually given an 18-month sentence.  I was outraged by the whole series of events and extremely angry at the incompetent, irresponsible and disgraceful behaviour of the drunk.  Who I don’t think should be given the credit of being called a “driver” in a state like he was obviously in.

However, in the article I read Richardson bore no ill will to the man who caused him so much pain and suffering and there was no trace of rage, resentment, blame, etc, for, among other things, losing out on his chance to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics because of one man’s irresponsible behaviour, to put it mildly.

Usually, on reading such a story, I would feel only rage at the drunk.  But because of the gentle, forgiving reaction by the cyclist, I realised that my reaction was to pity the driver, thinking how weak and pathetic he was rather than feel sorry for the cyclist; an interesting and refreshing perspective.

If somebody does something undeniably wrong that affects the life of an innocent party, I think it is a natural response to feel anger at the wrongdoer.  But this whole scenario has left me thinking that I would (sort of) rather suffer someone’s wrath than their pity and I would rather think of the goodness of the wronged than the badness of the wrongdoer, if you follow me.

People have done things that have enraged me and I have been left with a bitter taste in my mouth, as it were, and it’s not pleasant when such things fester and consume you.  To harness your anger and accept what has happened has happened and get on with your life is surely a more positive way to progress.  I just don’t think I could be that calm and seemingly forgiving of someone whose hateful actions caused me severe detriment.  But what good does blame do?  It doesn’t make you feel better and it hinders your recovery.  I guess you’d know and hope (or is that just me?!) that, in this scenario, the drunk would be riddled with guilt and thus have punishment; an 18-month sentence doesn’t seem harsh when his actions could easily have killed innocent people rather than causing complicated injuries to a man already seriously injured as a result of a car accident.

I would like to think I could be as “accepting of my lot”, and maybe I’d surprise myself by managing that, but I don’t think I have it in me to be that forgiving, positive and determined.  But I was surprised by how my reaction was altered by the forgiving, blameless words of a man who has been through so much.

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