The Most Costly Decision You’ll Ever Make

The empty field grabbed my attention and slowed my jog to a walk. I couldn’t help but stare at the lush grass now watermelon green after the recent hurricane.

A few of the girls died outside the schoolhouse, I thought to myself. I wonder where?

But there’s no sign a schoolhouse ever existed there – only a large, warped tree, a few fences, a few grazing animals.

* * * * *

I started jogging again and passed the community pool: Nickel Mines Pool and Swim Club. Monday was the first day of school, and the pool was closed, empty. I continued up the road to the old auction house. Some folks had told me they saw Charles Roberts standing there at the corner beside the Coca-cola machine, staring down towards the Amish schoolhouse, just before he drove down, went inside, and eventually opened fire.

I paused at the stop sign, then walked east toward Wolf Rock Road, looking over my shoulder again at that soda machine. What if someone would have seen him? What if someone could have stopped him?

Five little girls might still be alive today.

* * * * *

As I jogged those back country roads, passed occasionally by a car or truck (whose driver and occupants almost always waved to me), I thought about the tragedy that struck this community five years ago this October. I thought about the sadness that still dwells in Nickel Mines like an early morning fog. I thought about all of the hurt and lifelong pain caused by one man.

This is what unforgiveness will do, if you hang on to it. No, it’s not likely to cause you to go out and shoot ten little girls…but it might lead to the end of your marriage, or the splintering of your family, or the loss of a friendship. Think of all the pain unforgiveness causes in any given day.

It’s an atrocity.

What happened in Nickel Mines is a visible reminder of where unforgiveness will take you, if you let it.

* * * * *

Every time I pass that school, I’m reminded that while forgiveness takes serious effort, it’s unforgiveness that will eventually cost me everything.

Today, consider forgiveness.

6 Replies to “The Most Costly Decision You’ll Ever Make”

  1. Great post Shawn. Some truths are so simple yet very hard. You’ve got one of the strongest metaphors for that right in your town. Tx for sharing.

  2. Amazing, Shawn! I have never been to the site, but remember well that day, and the sadness that we are felt, then lightened by the lessons of forgiveness given by the Amish families. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I mostly think this makes a lot of sense. Mostly.

    You know, I believe, my particular trauma history. And in this case, the perpetrator is not conveniently dead (indeed, he’s conveniently alive and generating alimony), but walking around ready and able to victimize again.

    Some trauma therapists believe that attempting to forgive — for SOME patients; this is the ultimate case of “your mileage may vary” — can actually be harmful. That’s my only caveat, and of course, if you are one of those people, your therapist will gently say so. Mine has merely said that forgiveness is “not necessary” to healing the sort of trauma I have been through. Again, though, all of this applies most if you’re actually suffering PTSD. The human brain’s amazingly variable nature is precisely what makes it so hard to study….

    1. Interesting thoughts, Gwyn. You remind me, of course, that it’s important, when discussing these things, that everyone is on the same page regarding the definition of the word in question.

      If the forgiveness you talk about requires some sort of reconciliation, then I can see how that is not always helpful, or even healthy. But if one’s definition of forgiveness is (as is mine): “a decision to release yourself from anger, resentment, hate, or the urge for revenge despite the injury suffered,” I can hardly see how this would be harmful in any way. Especially when studies have shown that this type of forgiveness leads to so many emotional and physical benefits.

      But there are so many different nuances to this kind of emotional decision, and your comment helps me to see how forgiveness is something probably best navigated with the help of others.

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