A Forgiven Felon

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Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Though these words paint a somewhat gentle picture of what forgiveness looks like, it often has a much harsher face. Jodi Sanderholm, a smart and vivacious girl from Kansas, was abducted one morning after dance practice. Fear gripped her friends and family as the frantic search for the girl began. Foul play was suspected, and they could only hope to find Jodi alive. Jodi’s parents could never have imagined the sequence of events that would ensue, but the naturally forgiving nature of the Sanderholm family allowed them to face the situation with the peace and confidence that love provides. Their story shows that mercy is the only healthy way to cope with grief, and an acceptance of the truth may only be achieved through forgiveness.

As the search ensued, the Sanderholm family struggled to grasp the realization of how much cruelty humans are capable of. On a gloomy Tuesday afternoon several days later, Jodi’s car was found sunken in the bottom of a Cowley County fishing lake, and a search revealed her body and clothes nearby. This appalling news devastated Jodi’s family and friends, who had still been holding onto desperate hope for her survival. One week before, they never could have dreamed of the shocking nightmare changed their lives. Everybody was confounded and devastated by what happened, but never wanted revenge for Jodi’s killer, who was sent to jail for murder and rape. In fact, the Sanderholm family responded with a loving attitude, insisting on forgiving and even praying for Jodi’s murderer.

Jodi’s family demonstrated a rare form of unconditional love when they forgave her murderer, someone who didn’t seem to deserve forgiveness, and who certainly felt no remorse for his actions. This level of completely unqualified forgiveness is astonishing, especially under the circumstances. Reinhold Niebuhr said it best: “Forgiveness is the final form of love.” Without this love, there is no hope for an improved future. Despite the forgiving attitude exemplified by the Sanderholms, some family members refused to forgive Jodi’s assailant. According to Mrs. Shanks, Jodi's aunt, these unforgiving family members still struggle continually in their lives as a result of their decision to hold on to this resentment. In the words of Cherie Carter-Scott, “Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.” And indeed, the Sanderholm family grew much stronger in their Christian faith and became more unified as a family.
What happened to Jodi was a terrible tragedy, but the forgiveness her family showed to her abductor arose from a love that has no boundaries. This type of forgiveness, as displayed by Jodi’s family, is the kind that changes lives forever. Jodi’s family will always miss her, but they can now have a sense of peace and assurance that they did what was right by reaching out in love, as we all should do.





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rejoyce said...
Jul. 1, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Great short story with insight into the true act of forgiveness.
 
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