Forgiveness is one of the most powerful acts in the human experience. When we choose to forgive others, we free ourselves from pain, hatred and anger.
Many assume forgiveness is a kind act performed for the person in the wrong, but the true power of offering grace and forgiveness to others comes from the freedom gained by the afflicted.
While we all deal with the issue of forgiveness in our lives, there are occasional news stories that bring the issue center stage, with viral acts of forgiveness inspiring millions of people.
Let's explore three highly publicized acts of forgiveness to see the true power that can come from grace and redemption — and, while we're at it, be sure to check out some powerful movies about forgiveness on PureFlix.com:
A Pastor Forgives His Wife's Killer
Pastor Anthony Thompson chose forgiveness after he faced the most horrific circumstance on June 17, 2015 — an event that stunned the nation.
It was that day that his wife, Myra, was among the nine African American victims killed by a white shooter during a Bible study at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.
But rather than choose to be overcome by hate or anger, Thompson stood not long after the shooting in a courtroom and openly forgave the unrepentant killer, later telling "The Pure Flix Podcast" why he made the bold decision that truly inspired America.
“It was like [the shooter] and I were the only two in the room,” the pastor said. “And all of the sudden I just said, ‘Son I forgive you, my family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent, repent and confess, give your life to the one that matters the most — Christ — so that he can change it and change your ways … do that and you will be better off than you are right now.”
Listen to Thompson share his story:
A Teen Forgives His Brother's Killer
In a similar case, a young man also decided to forgive his brother's killer, taking the stand in court and openly forgiving — and then embracing — an ex-cop who was convicted of murder.
Amber Guyger was a police officer in Dallas, Texas, in September 2018 when she killed a man named Botham Jean inside of his apartment. She said she assumed she was inside her own apartment at the time, and was later convicted of murder.
Rather than opt for hate or anger, Brandt Jean, Botham Jean's 18-year-old brother, offered her forgiveness and asked the judge if he could embrace Guyger.
Their hug went viral, but it was his words that truly captivated everyone.
"I'm not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother — I personally want the best for you," Jean told Guyger. "I wasn't going to say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don't even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want."
Read more about the viral forgiveness story here.
Woman Befriends Mom of Man Who Killed Her Dad
Coni Sanders is the daughter of Dave Sanders, the only teacher who died during the infamous 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.
The tragedy had a dramatic impact on Coni Sanders. She's now a therapist who helps violent offenders try and get on the right path, but she revealed another stunning detail in PureFlix.com's "After Columbine" documentary series: she and Sue Klebold, one of the shooters’ mothers, have formed a powerful friendship.
WATCH NOW: Stream ‘After Columbine’ Right Now
The two connected years after the shooting and Sanders detailed her feelings and emotions about the encounter.
“We started talking and she is one of the most peaceful, most compassionate, most comforting people I think I’ve ever known – and I didn’t want her to be,” Sanders said. “I wanted her to be awful, I wanted her to be terrible, I wanted it to be this, ‘Yup I knew it, she’s a terrible person. She raised a terrible kid and that kid killed my dad.’”
In the end, though, the two became friends, and continue to meet and discuss how they can join together to positively impact society.
“If anybody’s pain is greater than my own, in my eyes, it’s hers,” Sanders said.
As these stories show, forgiveness can be incredibly powerful. Do you struggle with the issue? Here are some tips to help you navigate forgiveness — especially when it's a struggle. We'll leave you with some prayers that can help along the process as well.