Justice and Forgiveness

I guess I need to learn a lot more about forgiveness. Yesterday a black woman appeared on a political commentary show and said that she had forgiven the white cop who murdered her son. You’ve probably seen the story. Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year old former Florida A & M football player, was shot 10 times by a North Carolina policeman after Ferrell had an accident and was seeking help. According to the family attorney, Ferrell was hurt and disoriented after he wrecked his car. He was not carrying any type of weapon. Police responded and one officer, a Randall Kerrick, shot Ferrell four times while he was on the ground, paused, shot Ferrell four more times, paused, then shot Ferrell twice more. They then put him in handcuffs. Kerrick has been charged with involuntary manslaughter,

Yesterday Ferrell’s mother told Al Sharpton on his show “Politics Nation” that her son was the nicest, most nonviolent young man you could ever meet, that he would never harm anyone, but she also said that she had “forgiven” the policeman Kerrick. She said that she was a Christian and that God required her to forgive, but added the words, “vengeance is mine saith the Lord” and also that she wanted justice. The family has filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the officer and a few others, including the police department. I guess I don’t understand the concept of forgiveness—particularly in this situation.

Let me start with this outrageous question—has anybody every ask Jews to forgive Hitler? If not, why not? I don’t understand how Ferrell’s mother could so easily “forgive” a man who pumped 10 bullets into her son’s body while he lay on the ground already injured from a car accident—then flip his dead body over and put him in handcuffs. As I said, I guess I don’t understand forgiveness. First of all I don’t understand forgiving someone who didn’t ask for forgiveness. Kerrick claims that his actions were justified, he has not once asked anyone to forgive him for anything.

I went to a couple of sources to get a definition of forgiveness. One online dictionary said that “forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense and lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” As I said I’m having trouble understand how Ferrell’s mother can either wish Kerrick well, or surrender all the emotions associated with how her son was shot 10 times while he lay on the ground, then put in handcuffs.

In my own life when I have wronged someone I have first apologized to the person, then asked them to forgive me. Asking God to “forgive me” on a daily basis is part of my prayer ritual, however, I don’t understand unilateral one-sided, unrequested, acts of forgiveness. I have heard that forgiveness helps the forgiver to let go and move on. But if you let go and move on why file a million dollar lawsuit seeking payment for your lost? If forgiveness allows a person to let go completely, then why demand justice—why not, as they say “leave it in the hands of God.”

I wonder what Ferrell’s mother would have said if she had been immediately asked, “What are you forgiving Kerrick for?” If she had said I forgive him for murdering my son, then her lawyer would have looked rather stupid following her remarks with “we have filed a civil lawsuit against Kerrick, the entire police department and the City of Charlotte.” If forgiveness requires you to clean the slate of any type of retribution, then forgiveness should be sufficient to end the matter. Again, has anyone ever asked Jews, as a collective people, to forgive Hitler? If not, why not?

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Wednesday Wisdom