Weaving Baskets of Forgiveness

First, the confession.  I do not know what went down in Rwanda in 1994.  And I can’t begin to comprehend the depth of the problems there.

That said, this article about a Rwandan woman has been haunting my mind ever since I read it in May of 2008.

In it, CNN interviews a woman who, through the shared activity of weaving baskets, came to forgive the man who slaughtered 7 of her family members during the Rwandan Genocide.  And she sits next to the man’s wife while they weave baskets.

Let me say that again.  She has forgiven the man who slaughtered her family.  They live nearby and work together.

I do believe in forgiveness.  But I also know that it’s one thing to forgive consciously, and quite another to reach forgiveness emotionally.  One can say “I forgive” with their mouths while harboring deep resentment and anger.  I can appear cool and collected on surface, yet fuming about petty little annoyance about my wife, my family, my co-workers, and so on.

Well, everything appears petty, compared to the act of killing your family.

Yet, this woman demonstrates that it is possible to forgive.

I don’t mean to trivialize the issue, but I have to wonder what the weaving brought to them.  She said that it’s something they knew how to do.  And as they sat and weaved, I wonder if it brought to the fore what they have in common — the need for reconciliation, the desire for healing and growth, an impulse to move forward.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to make my closest friends from working together.  Through working on something, we share the common bond, we come to notice shared values, reflected in how we go about working.

We are not as different as we fear.  For example, Christian, Jew and Muslim parents all love their children.

I am so fortunate to be spared from living through such atrocity.  Yet, forgiveness is hard to achieve.

Forgiveness, emotionally, is a state one reaches only after processing and purging emotions that precede it. I can’t even begin to imagine the process she went through, before she reached her forgiveness.

But she’s done it.  It’s possible.

Healing is possible.

Healing is possible.

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9 Responses to Weaving Baskets of Forgiveness

  1. Jennifer says:

    I was just hearing some ladies talk the other day about forgiveness. They thought they had forgiven, they said they had, but something brought up the subject and bad feelings were still there. Sometimes we want to forgive, but we don’t quite know how and that is hard.

    Herein in your sentences lies the key I believe: “But she’s done it. It’s possible. Healing is possible.” The problem is that we either consciously or unconsciously tell ourselves that we could never forgive them for what they did to us (whoever it may be). As long as we have told ourselves that then we NEVER will. And just the opposite…. If we tell ourselves it is possible… well…. we will – eventually anyway.

    What helps me a lot with forgiveness is remembering just how much I need forgiveness – that and putting myself in the other person’s shoes. These two things help me tremendously.

    Jennifer´s last blog post..It’s Your Choice….

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Jennifer,

      Yes, like I was saying to Bamboo, forgiveness, at least emotional kind, doesn’t come simply by you saying “I forgive” (though I’m sure that contributes in the healing process). You get to a place where you can release all that anger and resentment — you’re no longer bound, no longer burdened — and then you’re totally free and healed. Then you can truly forgive.

      But not something we can force ourselves to get there. It’s possible to get there fast but that simply means a lot of processing. There’s a process, and everyone needs to go through it. Not going through it is not a good option — you know what that means. An emotional scar that’s stuck inside, festering. It causes LOTS of problems.

      Forgiveness is a destination for everyone who’s been hurt.

      ari

  2. Scott says:

    Forgiveness, in my opinion, is no benefit to the person being forgiven. Forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving. I’m a firm believer in forgiving others regardless of their present state. I’m not going to forgive them right away, I don’t think that is possible. It takes time. For me to keep it from “silently”, seething, growing, eating away at emotions, I must eventually forgive. It may never be at the fore front of my thoughts, but without forgiveness it’s always going to be in my thoughts. The wounds may never completely heal, or at the very least there will always be the scar. I’m going to forgive, I didn’t say I was ever going to forget. There is a difference.

    Scott´s last blog post..We stare at weblogs, what do cats stare at?

  3. Maya says:

    Ari –

    Great post and point. I am a firm believer (check my latest post) that solutions to mist situations come by moving away from the situation and secretly teasing our hearts, bodies and minds. The weaving is a form of meditation, I think. Over days, months and years, the weaving led the lady towards emotional healing by giving her heart and mind a rest and involving her body in a meaningful activity.

    Such a profound message here!

    Maya´s last blog post..Born Into Poverty : Blog Action Day 2008

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Maya,

      I can see how weaving is a form of meditation. And not only that, but it also served as the common ground between the victim and the aggressor. Good insights, Maya!

      ari

  4. By the way, my sentiment is exclusively regarding the concept of forgiveness, nothing to do with this woman’s tragedy. I don’t know anything about it, except what you posted. I only speak for myself and how I see the concept of forgiveness, in that I’m not of the school that forgiveness is always the proper path, no matter what.

    Bamboo Forest´s last blog post..Top 7 Fun U.S. Presidential Names

  5. It is here that I must go against the grain.

    I encounter this very often, and even though it’s repeated on a regular basis – I still do not find it wise.

    Firstly, should you forgive someone who shows no remorse for their actions? Someone who commits something morally repugnant and is happy they did what they did? Is it truly a positive to forgive such a person under such circumstances?

    Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. It is virtuous. No doubt about it…

    But the idea that always giving forgiveness, no matter what the circumstance, is somehow enlightened; this is something I simply do not agree with. This notion seems to get repeated often, and I continue to disagree with it.

    Just like anything else, there is a time to forgive – and there are times one shouldn’t in my opinion. To make the blanket statement that it is always enlightened to forgive, I simply find that lacking credibility.

    Lastly, I also find it untrue that it is necessary to forgive in order to attain peace of mind. Forgiveness is saying, “I don’t hold it against you anymore.” Is it not? Unless I’m given a working definition of the word forgiveness, it’s hard for me to properly examine the issue.

    But I certainly don’t believe it is necessary to forgive in order to have peace of mind. To hold such a notion is to put the mind in a box that is completely self manufactured.

    That’s just my humble opinion.

    Bamboo Forest´s last blog post..Top 7 Fun U.S. Presidential Names

    • Ari Koinuma says:

      Hi Bamboo,

      See Scott’s response below. I think there are many things that are meant by the word “forgiveness” but the kind I’m talking about here is what Scott’s talking about. And with this particular definition, yes, I do believe that forgiveness is the final destination in the healing process. It’s not so much that you have to forgive to achieve the peace of mind. It’s the other way around — when you’re through processing and come to peace, you no longer need to be angry about someone’s deed in the past. You’re free of that emotional burden.

      It’s obviously not the same thing as holding someone accountable for their actions.

      ari

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