Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
Like a lot of people, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt grew up thinking that forgiveness required the actions of two people: 1) the person who hurt you apologizing – and 2) you, who would grant that person forgiveness. But what Katherine realized as she got older – and especially while writing her book “The Gift of Forgiveness” – is that forgiveness is ultimately a gift that you give yourself, regardless of another person’s remorse or lack thereof.
During an interview on “Christopher Closeup,” she told me, “I went through phases of feeling like forgiveness is something that weak people do, something that almost makes a wrongdoing okay. It can feel like a betrayal of your own hurt. After doing this book and speaking to all these amazing people, I understand that forgiveness is something that requires an incredible amount of strength and courage. It is an example of us taking our power back in control of our own lives.”
In writing “The Gift of Forgiveness,” Katherine interviewed 22 people who endured horrific circumstances or evils. And she shares how they unburdened themselves of the anger, hatred, and resentment that was weighing them down. For several of her subjects, religious faith was a key factor. Polly Sheppard, for instance, is a survivor of Dylann Roof’s racist murder spree at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel A.M.E. church in 2015. Days after the shootings, Sheppard publicly forgave Roof. Katherine notes that decision was rooted in Sheppard’s faith.
Katherine said, “[Sheppard] grew up in a family where faith was the main feature in her life. That formed her understanding of forgiveness…From the beginning…there was an understandably instant feeling of anger. But she quickly spoke about getting to a place of forgiveness and wanting to talk to Dylann Roof about why he chose to do what he did – and also try to get faith [into] his life…The way that she came to [forgiveness] was a place of having compassion and empathy, but also a clear mission to spread the power of faith into other people’s lives, especially Dylann Roof’s life, who clearly she felt did not have that presence.”
Other interview subjects include Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who struggled with her belief in God before ultimately coming to meet the man who murdered her family and telling him she forgives him – and Ron Hall, who credits his wife’s gift of “Christlike forgiveness,” after she discovered his infidelity, with putting him on a road that led him to helping the homeless.
Katherine’s compassion and empathy for all the people she interviewed are evident in the heartfelt way she speaks about them. And those qualities were partially planted in her life by her grandparents, Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Sargent helped found the Peace Corps, which promotes volunteering and bettering the lives of people around the world. And Eunice founded Special Olympics, which changed the attitudes many people have toward those with intellectual challenges.
Katherine concluded, “My grandparents were huge figures in my life when they were here on earth, and still after having passed. I think about them a lot. The biggest lesson they taught me was that our purpose on this earth is to make the world a better place and to help others. They taught us as their grandchildren…that you could always be of service, and how you choose to do that is up to you. So with this book on forgiveness, my goal with it is to help other people in their forgiveness journey.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note FORGIVING OTHERS AND OURSELVES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: email@example.com