Forgiveness and Hope

In what has become accepted as one of the most shameful acts in American history, Japanese Americans were removed from their homes during World War II and sent to internment camps. Most were U.S. citizens, and a majority were 2nd or 3rd generation Americans.

Rather than retaliate against the injustice they faced, many of the Japanese American men fought for the U.S. during World War II. The 100th Infantry Battalion, mostly consisting of Japanese Americans, fought a crucial battle that led to the liberation of Rome. They became known as the Purple Heart Battalion because so many of them had been wounded.

Another Japanese American fighting unit, the 442nd Infantry Regiment, was the most decorated unit in the history of the U.S. military. The 442nd unit fought to rescue a battalion of Texas soldiers who were destined to be captured and slaughtered.

In subsequent action, the 442nd unit was present at the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. At the time, many of the Japanese American soldiers were thinking about their own families in internment camps in America.

While the story of the Japanese American soldiers is one of bravery and courage, it is also one of forgiveness. So too is the story of African American soldiers, most notably Tuskegee Airmen, who fought bravely even while resenting the shameful Jim Crow laws at home. Also, there is the story of the vital role the Native American code talkers played in World War II, even though their people were still suffering from the resettlement known as the Trail of Tears. How can one forgive such injustice?

The best way to forgive is to do the opposite of what is expected. Instead of hanging on to grievances, show your forgiveness by actions of kindness, caring, and in some cases, bravery. Forgiveness is an expression of hope for the future.

All of us have a need to forgive, and in most cases, others have a need to forgive us as well for words or actions we might have taken against them. For those of us who are Christians, the Lord’s Prayer discusses forgiveness by saying: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” All religions have similar views on forgiveness.

To forgive is to show those we forgive by how we act towards them. Kindness, caring, hope, and bravery are wonderful ways to show forgiveness.

Might we hope that many of our society’s challenges could be reduced if we were to take a different approach to forgiveness? Forgiveness is better when it is thought of as actions that show forgiveness rather than simply words. Might we imagine that the human generosity of spirit would put grievances aside and work toward reconciliation?

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“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

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