Thursday, June 23, 2016

Forgiving the One Who Kills While Drunk

I have friends who lost a family member in a horrific car crash.  The family member was travelling on his motorcycle at night on the Interstate, when a woman who was driving the wrong way on that Interstate ploughed into him, killing the family member and severely injuring the driver.

Was she drunk?  Of course she was--sober drivers don't get on the Interstate driving the wrong way--it's hard to do.

The story is full of grim irony.  The man killed had been clean and sober for years, and he had helped countless others to that salvation.  And now, he was dead by a drunk driver?  There was much anger and sorrow.  Forgiveness was not readily apparent.

My friend who was the sister-in-law of the motorcyclist moved towards forgiveness more quickly than the rest of the family.  She continued to remind everyone of the victim's quickness to forgive, and to forgive over and over again.  At the beginning, almost everyone else wanted a swift, harsh justice.

The wheels of the legal system move slowly, sometimes unbearably so.  This case was no different, and this case moved more slowly through the legal system because of the severe injuries of the drunk driver.

These delays gave the family members time to move towards forgiveness and a plea deal.  The DUI driver will have to serve some time in jail, and she will never drive again.  She will have to be a speaker about the danger of drunk driving, along with other responsibilities.  She will have a lifetime of random drug tests.  And she must live with her injuries.  She will never be the same.

I have seen the family members on the local news as they talked about their losses.   Knowing that they have moved from anger to a forgiveness has been inspiring.  They have not couched the experience in spiritual terms, not publically, but I cannot help but think of the various spiritual traditions that command forgiveness as a spiritual duty, a spiritual necessity, a spiritual formation.

Forgiveness cannot erase loss, of course.  But it can transform the loss.  Anger can be transformative too, and not always in a bad way.  But anger nursed deep within us is damaging.  To hold that anger for many years is even worse.  Far better to forgive, although it's much harder.

The DUI driver has a much more difficult road ahead.  She is filled with remorse, and she must rebuild a life from shattered shards.  I hope that the fact that she has received some forgiveness will help her too.

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