“Why were you not at the door to keep the assassin out?” she demanded.
With head bowed, Parker replied, “I have bitterly repented it. But I did not believe that anyone would try to kill so good a man in such a public place. The belief made me careless. I was attracted by the play, and did not see the assassin enter the box.”
“You should have seen him. You had no business to be careless.” With this, Mrs. Lincoln fell back on her pillow and covered her face with her hands, and from deep emotion, said: “Go now. It’s not you I can’t forgive; it’s the assassin.”
Tad, who had spent that miserable night beneath his father’s desk in the executive office, drawled, “If Pa had lived, he would have forgiven the man who shot him. Pa forgave everybody.”1
Both Mrs Lincoln and the bodyguard share in grief. One is culpable, while the other widowed. It is right they should share their grief so openly, in conversation. How else will she find solace and he forgiveness?
Unfortunately, Mrs Lincoln does not provide the bodyguard any forgiveness nor solace. She only acknowledges he is not the one she cannot forgive. But this is not the same as forgiveness, is it?
Surprisingly, the Lincoln’s son, overhearing this conversation, adds that the President would have forgiven even his assassin. Perhaps the bodyguard could take some solace in that insight?
While the bodyguard recognised his culpability in the President’s death, he did truly need forgiveness, direct and explicit. From the President, which was not at all possible, or from those most affected by the President’s death, or, at the very least, from those who would soon find him or drag him into court. Even prison would be bearable for this man if the President’s family forgave him. Forgiveness is powerful in its effect.
What Does Forgiveness Look Like?
On this, James, the brother of Jesus and the first leader of the church in Jerusalem, wrote:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. (James 5:16)
The healing James encouraged starts with conversation, with confessing our sins to one another. Do you have such people in your life, those with whom you can be open and honest? If not, find them and be such for others. To be honest and open about one’s failings and mistakes, especially, but not exclusively, to those we have wronged, can release us from carrying a heavy psycho-spiritual burden.
Advocate for Forgiveness
The person to whom you have confessed may not be one who can offer forgiveness, but he can certainly pray for you. This need not be a formal prayer with high-falutin language. It can be simple and straightforward, offering up an account of what has happened and the contrition felt by the confessor standing before you. This is like advocating for another person before the king or other authority in the land. You are standing in for the wrongdoer, offering your reputation and relationship with the king as an advocate.
God hears such prayer, but, equally importantly, the one confessing hears your prayer. Your care and concern becomes evident in what you say and how you interact with your friend. Forgiveness can be quite powerful in a person’s life and should not be neglected. Be a gift to others by listening, by praying, and by forgiving. One day, you too might need such a gift yourself!
When has someone’s forgiveness made such a difference to you? Share your story in the comments section below.