Flowers in a Vase
I think most people struggle with the concept of forgiveness. It doesn't come easily to many of us. It is somehow contrary to human nature. Often our first instinct in retaliation for a wrong against us is to get revenge. "Just you wait...!" Compassion, however, is entrenched in human nature, and most people -- unless they are psychopathic or sociopathic -- feel deep compassion for our fellow human beings or other creatures who are in distress. People will rush to the aid of strangers, and even put themselves into danger to ease someone else's suffering. However, when forgiveness and compassion are two sides of the same coin, it becomes complicated.
Forty years ago, during the infamous "Manson murders", 21 year-old Susan Atkins stabbed 26 year-old Sharon Tate to death, as Tate begged for her life and that of her unborn baby. Susan Atkins told Sharon Tate that she had no compassion for her, and proceeded to stab her 16 times. These were two young women in their 20s, they had never met each other before that night, and the act of violence perpetrated by one young woman on the other is inconceivable to most of us. And now it is Susan Atkins' turn to beg for compassion. Yesterday her plea for compassionate release from prison was denied. She is bed-ridden and dying from terminal brain cancer, and she is not likely to be a threat to the community. But, here is where the concept of forgiveness comes into play. How many people would be able to forgive Susan Atkins for what she did, and thereby show compassion towards her? I have thought about this over the past day or so, and I struggle with it. If I were on that parole board, what would I do? Forgiveness and compassion -- two similar but different concepts -- what would you do?