How Old Were The Girls In Golden Girls When Filming Forgiveness – Ordinary Acts

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Forgiveness – Ordinary Acts

Many religions and cultural belief systems hold firmly to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, Exodus 21:23-27. This phrase expresses the principle of retributive justice also known as lex talionis (Latin for “law of retribution”). A prerequisite for this form of law is the principle of proportionality of punishment, often expressed by the slogan “Let the punishment fit the crime”, which is especially true for mirror punishments (which may or may not be proportionate). Underlying the unbiblical form of this principle is the belief that one of the purposes of the law is to secure just retribution for the offended party. It defined and limited the scope of retaliation. This early belief is reflected in the Code of Hammurabi and the laws of the Old Testament (Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:18-20, Deuteronomy 19:21).

The Old Testament precept “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was often interpreted, especially in Judaism, as equivalent to monetary compensation, even excluding mirror punishment.

Mahatma Gandhi commented on the lex talionis: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless.” Gandhi has a logical point.

Many belief systems (Christianity, Tao, and Buddhism) that are considered difficult to implement in practice teach forgiveness of those who harm them rather than seeking retribution for wrongdoing. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says:

“You’ve heard it said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil man. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him take your cloak also. If someone forces you to walk a mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38–42, NIV)

“Turn the other cheek,” is often interpreted as allowing a person to be abused. No one wants to be taken advantage of, so this misinterpretation leads people to believe that “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is our “God given right”. Many people think that only pacifists turn the other cheek. To “turn the other cheek” means to avoid dealing in kind – i.e. to take revenge.

Other belief systems hold to similar concepts, such as Taoist wu wei, which encourages the wronged individual to simply accept the wrongdoing and take the least “resistant” action to correct it, if any action is needed at all. Buddhism emphasizes the weight of karma: one can take retribution, but this retaliatory action is not without consequences, and living on a finite planet guarantees that the suffering caused by the retaliatory action will return to the individual who was harmed (as well as the one who did the wrong thing). Some subscribe to the Golden Rule of Ethics rather than any law of retaliation.

Ordinary acts of forgiveness can be observed daily, yet it is the least reported message. ABC TV anchor Charles Gibson interviewed several Amish families after a gunman killed five girls and critically injured six others on October 3, 2006. Gibson commented, “It didn’t take long to learn that Amish families were the most affected by this tragedy . they responded in a way that might seem foreign to most of us: They’re just talking about Monday’s school shooting as forgiveness.” “We’re just trying to support each other and try to let it sink in,” said 17-year-old Dorothy King.

This simple act of forgiveness had just fifteen minutes of air time. While breast-beating, the retaliatory response to the WTC attack (9/11) received hundreds of hours of air time – news, interviews and films. We saw the President of the United States, George W. Bush, standing at the WTC site on a megaphone with a college student bragging and shouting retaliatory statements. It’s no wonder that most people believe that retaliation is an acceptable and honorable way to respond to a terrible wrong – despite what their religious beliefs or integrity mean.

Behind all the popular stories of sensationalism, bloody retribution, and breast-beating lies another amazing story of ordinary forgiveness.

Despite the environmental, physiological, and psychological damage that reminds the Vietnamese every day of the war, they practice forgiveness toward the United States.

Many American soldiers returned to Vietnam to express their regret and ask for forgiveness. Without exception, these soldiers were overwhelmed by the undeniable forgiveness with which they were greeted. The only answer to move on was Vietnamese forgiveness. The Vietnamese fought the Chinese for a thousand years, the French for a hundred, and the Americans–1962-1975. They celebrate the end of many years of violence and war – their country is now at peace. They help each other and have accepted tragedies without compounding the grief and suffering.

On June 21, 2005, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai visited the White House, the first Vietnamese leader since the end of the Vietnam War, saying that relations between the two nations had “entered a new phase of development.”

Mr. Khai and President Bush announced that Mr. Bush will visit Vietnam for an Asia Summit meeting. Along with Bill Clinton, Bush is the second president to visit the country since the end of the war in 1975. The meeting between the prime minister and the president marked the 10th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the long-time combatants. The United States has become Vietnam’s largest trading partner, with $6.4 billion worth of goods traded in 2004.

While these examples of forgiveness are associated with horrific acts of violence, there are thousands upon thousands of other stories of people forgiving their wrongdoers. These stories may appear on the back pages of newspapers or may never be reported. Nor would they necessarily be reported. However, it is the duty of each of us on our journey to learn the art and act of forgiveness, to seek out the stories of those who have chosen to forgive, regardless of the hurt or pain. They can become your role model.

If the Americans and Vietnamese can do it, so can you.

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