Forgiveness Is a Powerful Thing

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After the sentence was announced in Dallas, Texas, a small crowd gathered in the foyer outside the courtroom yelling and crying in frustration over what they said was too short of a sentence, as shown by a WFAA livestream.

"No justice, no peace," they chanted.

But inside the courtroom, it was a totally different atmosphere. The victim’s 18-year-old brother, Brandt Jean, told his brother's killer that he forgave her and that he loved her like anyone else in a victim's impact statement.

Brandt went on to say, "I don't want to say twice or for the hundredth time how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that . . . 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."

Brandt said the best thing for the shooter Amber Guyger to do would be to give her life to Christ. He then turned to the judge and asked an unusual question.

"I don't know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please?"

That is when everyone saw them embrace. This young man’s brother was killed by this young woman but he showed America what true forgiveness is all about.

This nightmare started on Sept. 6, 2018, when a Dallas police officer—Amber Guyger—came home from work and said she accidently got off on the wrong floor of her apartment building. When she got to what she thought was her apartment, the door was not locked, instead slightly open. That is when she saw the victim, Botham Jean, and shot him. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The story that everyone is focusing on is the amazing example of the 18-year-old brother of the victim, Brandt, who showed such amazing forgiveness and kindness to this woman. This example is so rare in today’s culture of anger, revenge, get even, and destroy anyone who has hurt us. People sue over everything.

What is rare today is what Brandt emulated, an outstanding example that Christ set for us while on the cross. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, spit on, made fun of and suffering great pain, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, New International Version). “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly” (1 Peter 2:23, New International Version).

Forgiveness is the healing of wounds caused by another. We make the choice to try and let go of the past hurt, forgive those who have hurt us, and move on. Our greatest emotional healer, Jesus Christ, inspired this advice to be written by the apostle Paul concerning forgiveness: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). He lived that advice by example in His own life.

Did you know that studies have shown forgiveness is good for us? Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels and sleep, and reducing pain, blood pressure and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

We forgive, not primarily for the benefit of others, but for ourselves, to prevent further, often more serious, disorder. Christ knew what He was talking about when He encouraged us to forgive.

Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital says, “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health" (Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It).

Wow! Apparently Jean Brandt knew about forgiveness and its positive effects on our bodies and mental state.

He was later interviewed on Good Morning America. "This is what you have to do to set yourself free," he said in an interview. "I didn't really plan on living the rest of my life hating this woman."

"I know that there's something called peace of mind and that's the type of stuff you need to do to have peace of mind," he said. "That is why I wake up happy in the morning. That is why I want to live happy later on in my life."

Forgiveness is good for our health and our mental state. May we all have a forgiving heart, when people do bad things to us, just like this amazing young man. Many times this will require seeking God on our knees for the needed help to be able to say those three powerful words: I forgive you.