“I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you”

It was interesting to read accounts of the trial of the Boston Bomber in the news yesterday, where it was reported that he asked forgiveness for the terrible things he did. Interesting, because at the start of the trial, there was no indication of any sense of remorse for what he had done – and yet now, he publicly recanted his actions, seeming to finally recognise the devastating impact of what he did, and asked for forgiveness. I wonder what changed in the interim.

Some commentators have wondered if the change came about because now, in the courtroom, this man sees real people, hears stories of real lives lost or forever changed; this is no longer simply an ideology with faceless victims. It has become real; the people are real. And certainly, recognising the humanity, the reality, of another can be a deeply changing moment.

Amongst those most closely affected by this sad case, there are differing opinions as to whether or not the apology was genuine; one person felt it was ‘hollow and insincere’, while another said –

“To hear he is sorry is enough for me. I hope he was genuine, I have no way of knowing that.”

And perhaps that is the crux of the matter. It can be easier to forgive when we are certain there is sorrow for the actions that have harmed us; but how much harder to forgive – and to really mean that forgiveness – when we just don’t know whether or not there is true sorrow. Sometimes, we simply will not know and we have to accept that fact. But at those times, that forgiveness is immensely powerful in it’s ability to heal both the author of harmful actions, and also those affected by them.

In a world which has a much reduced sense of forgiveness, where the call to vengeance can be loud and persuasiveness, how refreshing to hear the call of mercy; and how challenging that call truly is.