I watched a segment on the TODAY show yesterday that was both shocking and refreshing. It reported on Andy and Kate Grosmaire forgiving murder – their son-in-law (Conor McBride) shot and killed their daughter, Ann.
You can read the full story in a New York Times article published yesterday. Instead of sending the young man through the court system the parents sat down with Conor and a judge and worked out an agreement.
They requested a maximum of fifteen years in prison. They said they didn’t want his life to be defined by this one tragic moment any more than they wanted their daughter’s life to be defined by this moment either.
The judge decided to give him twenty years. The parents requested that half of those years would be served outside of prison helping causes that their daughter believed in. An amazing story.
I want to comment on a few other statements that the parents made that give insight into forgiveness:
- Ann did not die immediately. She was able to speak to her parents before she died. She told her father: Jesus and I want you to forgive him. The parents felt that their forgiveness was a divine calling and because God was calling them to do it, he was also offering them the power to do it. Kate said that she didn’t know if she was capable of forgiveness, but You don’t know what you are capable of doing until you are in the moment.
- Andy said, If I didn’t forgive him I’d go right with him to prison. That was an interesting statement because I just posted a quote of mine recently saying, “Some offenses are unforgettable, but no offense is unforgivable. To not forgive is to lock yourself in a cell with your offender forever.” Andy understood this. He didn’t want to be dragged into that cell of unforgiveness.
- I also appreciate the insight that Andy showed when he said, We didn’t pardon him. We forgave him. In my book, STUCK…how to overcome your anger and reclaim your life, I talk about Five Things that Forgiveness is Not. One thing that forgiveness is not is excusing (or pardoning). Forgiveness means giving up the right to get even. It doesn’t mean you let the person off the hook. Too often people don’t want to forgive because they don’t want to send the wrong message. But in this story there is both forgiveness and justice. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
We see stories like this in the news every so often. Nine times out of ten they are about people who are followers of Jesus who want to live out his words and follow his example. It’s nice to see this because so often the news stories are about a person doing something crazy or hurtful in God’s name.
Question: Forgiving murder seems impossible. What would be the hardest thing for you if your child asked you to forgive their murderer? Leave your comment below.