Aspects of Forgiveness


Many people, including those who saw me on the "Sixty Minutes" program and ABC TV's "Australian Story", have asked many questions relating to what I understand by forgiveness. Does forgiveness mean that I am condoning the action? Some of the answers I gave are interwoven in this E-report.


Forgiveness has been an ongoing process for me, culminating two years ago, (that is, after 14 years), in having a face-to-face meeting with the murderer of my daughters. It was a Conferencing Program under the auspices of the Correctional Services, in Grafton Jail in February 2001.  I went through my forgiveness process, ensuring that Richard Maddrell understood the process, and I unconditionally forgave Richard Maddrell for the murder of Jenny, Kirsty and Lexie. 

By forgiving him, people may think that I 'pardon' him and that perhaps by this I mean that Richard Maddrell should be free, however this is not the case. I do not condone the action. I think that Richard Maddrell, should be in jail for life, principally for the protection of the community.  If Richard Maddrell is freed, I could handle it - this is Man's Law.  Neither do I resent Richard Maddrell and I have no hatred, bitterness or hostility towards him - if I have any feeling towards him, it is one of compassion.  I believe that the forgiveness process is far deeper than the words imply - it involves spirituality. My process is between me and God

A Letter, With A Challenging Question

The question was in regard to someone who was released from detention and exposed again by media. I have taken the licence to either change wording or leave out some words to preserve confidentiality.

I have witnessed a similar situation but from the other side.

When I was contracting for a Government Department, a new person joined us. His name seemed familiar - but I could not place it. He worked hard and conscientiously, always friendly, always helpful. He seemed to treat each day as a gift rather than an expectation.

Then one of the local papers decided to do an article on 'rehabilitated criminals'. It turned out that my co-worker was an ex bank-robber and a rapist. And that my manager (for whom I had great respect) had been involved with drugs and attempted murder.

For several weeks their lives were misery. The department, with standard government knee-jerk reaction, tried to get them dismissed on the spot.

Questions were asked, and fingers pointed. Finally it all blew over, but the effect on them was saddening. I wondered how they themselves could heal when no-one else would let them.

I truly felt for them. They had done their time, served their prison sentence and as my manager was now a committed Christian I could see how his past deeds weighed on his conscience.

Thankfully it is people like yourself who have the inner strength to go on, and forgive, that can enable people who have committed crimes to mend their lives and go on to be better human beings.

For that example ... I thank you.

My Answer

There are a few things that are mixed together here. One is Man's Law, one is God's Law and then there is Society. In this case, after they had served their sentence (Man's Law) they were burdened by Society. This also may be a way that God's Law plays a part in that things done in the past can never really be buried but we must come to terms with them in such a way that thinking about them doesn't cause pain. Pain caused through guilt can often be handled by "I have done the best that I could with the tools that I had at the time. Now that I know more, I will do better next time".

I have had cause to write about this before and I will include that below - with some adjustments - in attempting to address the issue. It's written as though it is going to somebody who has offended.

Once again? thank you for taking the time to write to me - I understand your concerns for the people you mentioned in your letter.

Expectations - Part Of A Letter Written To An Offender

Our journey through life and the experiences it brings us is often referred to as Karma. A belief that I subscribe to is that negative Karma must be balanced as we move onward through life. It's a fact that we have blocks in our lives. (I have discussed this in a previous E-report.) Sometimes these blocks can be avoided by "walking around them". Have you ever noticed that when you do "avoid" a block it surfaces again, only this time it's a bit bigger. The blocks can grow from mini minor size to truck size, to jumbo size, to train size, until it can no longer be avoided. Then we must work with it, to get through it, and learn the lessons that come out of dealing with it. These lessons are experiences for our soul. In spiritual terms it is the job of the higher self to ensure we learn life's lessons.

In much the same way we can have experiences in life that we don't deal with. An example of this is the journey by many soldiers dealing with experiences in Vietnam. Indeed, even the Government of the day aided and abetted soldiers to put their memories behind them by advising soldiers to not congregate in pubs and talk about their experiences. "The war is over for you. It's only one year out of your life. Put it out of your mind. The people don't like it, and on." So memories were pushed down and sometimes "forgotten". Where to? To memory. Where is Memory? In the subconscious mind. How does the subconscious mind handle it? This is the dream mind, so "hot sweats", "nightmares", are common, as is "irrational action" and "unexplained anger". This is called Post Traumatic Stress with Repressed Memory. The ex soldier has to handle this and come to terms with it or, go through their experiences, not "push them down".

I don't pretend to understand what has happened to you, nor to understand "prison justice" or "society justice" - perhaps I could call this an extension of "man's law". What has come up for me is that others in Society may believe that the debt has not yet been paid in full. Let me go a step further - when one is released from custody, my thinking is that the media may eventually find out and therefore the public will know as well. In other words the release will be public knowledge and this could make things harder for anyone in these circumstances.

I think, prepare for this eventuality - don't put it out of your mind. I know, that you know, that you did commit an enormous crime. You have made great strides towards coming to terms with this by expressing your remorse. You may have further to go, so don't push down the event and try to forget it - you must, for your sanity, come to terms with it. So how do you do that - come to terms with it

I think the ultimate process is the same one that I went through - acceptance, co-operation, unconditional love and forgiveness.

One thought, at the commencement of this process, is to separate the event (the crime you committed) from the deeper inner you. The deeper inner you is the spark of God within you, or the soul. The event is an experience that your soul has and now it's up to you as to how you handle that. It is the lessons from the event that the soul will experience. So when you do the process of forgiveness, bring to mind that part of you that is the deeper inner you and forgive yourself. (You may be really angry with yourself - if this is the case then the anger must be handled before the forgiveness process can take place). Forgiving yourself can be coupled with asking God for forgiveness. All these processes are best done in deep meditation.

Whilst you go through all of these inner processes then "Man's Law", "Society's Law", and "Prison Justice" has to be handled. It is handled by the personality which will draw strength from these inner processes. Whatever happens in the jail, or once you are released, or when you are free in society, can be cruel. You will be reminded of the event in many different ways and it is not until you've "handled it" will you be able to deal with these circumstances by drawing on your inner strength.

So, in conclusion, don't push down the event, handle it with co-operation, acceptance, unconditional love and forgiveness and you will be able to deal satisfactorily with "Society".

Self Forgiveness Is Just As Big A Challenge

I mentioned forgiving self in my answer above. In my original letter I also gave some specific advice on the way forward with the help of a Staff Counsellor. Self Forgiveness is a big topic and I don't expect anyone new to the subject to understood it overnight. It is something that needs to be experienced.

There is no doubt that Forgiveness and Self Forgiveness go together. It's like 2 sides of the same coin. Often we find that we can't forgive ourselves because of some awful thing that we have done. "Awful" in whose judgement? Here's a thought. If we can bring ourselves to thinking "I've done the best that I could do with the tools that I had - I'll do better next time" then this will help the process, because we are fallible beings.

A Way To Start - When It's Really Tough

I find that when we can't forgive somebody for something, then we need to understand what we are doing to ourselves. Anger, hostility, blame, judgement, guilt ... can only lead to sickness within ourselves. 50,000 times a day we talk to ourselves! Who Listens? Negative thoughts attract negative thoughts. So where does this process end up? By being another victim - and, who caused it? Yes you did of course. So now to the Choice Point! I don't want to be another victim! I also have responsibility to myself, my family, my friends and to those who rely on me.

I have also found that giving yourself permission to just examine and find out about the process of forgiveness is a good first step. And, once again this statement will help: "They've done the best that they could do - they don't know any better - perhaps they'll do better next time." I find that the best way to do all of this is in meditation, with guided imagery. Meditation provides a wonderful vehicle for moving on and not remaining stuck.

So, I'd like to share how I experienced a feeling of freedom, liberation, and a sense of lightness and felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders after I had my face-to-face meeting. I will never again wonder how I would react if confronted by the murderer of my daughters. The monkey is off my back.

All the Best

Sandy MacGregor

Success Stories

Note from Sandy:? I recently received the following letter which I thought was so very brave of the person who sent it to me. It is not easy to have such a brutally honest look at our own personal situation and judge ourselves ... and then do something about it. It has indeed taken a lot of courage and to the person who wrote it ... I thank you and salute you.

Dear Sandy

Thought you might like to hear about a recent breakthrough I have had in personal growth.

Given that our lives are largely shaped by experiences of the first 6 years of life, it seems a mammoth task to change the mould. I will not pretend that my own childhood was anything less than a nightmare in post war Britain. My first 12 years were spent in a house bereft of plumbing and for the most part 2 adults and 3 children were cramped into one miserable, dingy living room of dimensions that didn't exceed 3.5 metres square. Seems hard to comprehend these days but for economic reasons the sitting room was out of bounds except on special weekends such as Christmas and Easter.

Matters weren't helped by having a tyrannical father who led everyone to believe that as a war hero he was entitled to do exactly as he pleased and abused all of us with violence and mental cruelty. (It was only in later years that my own son having been an army regular, discovered that my father was nothing more than a blanket stacker in the supply corps having been thrown out of a front-line regiment!)

Being the eldest child, things took a turn for the worse when my twin brothers arrived when I was 3. Multiple births in those days were rare and my father viewed the event as evidence that he was superman, after all, what more proof did the world need! In many ways I became surplus baggage and interaction twixt me and my siblings was discouraged on the grounds that I should play on my own as the twins were a composite entity and didn't need me.

Things were made even more unbearable by my father's unfortunate behaviour. He was a loud, overbearing, bad mannered bully with personal habits that would make a tramp cringe! Despite being extremely intelligent, my mother was psychologically beaten into a pulp, a woman who didn't have an opinion, someone who dared not say she liked a piece of music for fear of offending the Omen.

Needless to say I left home at 16 and put distance between myself and family. I resolved to be as different from my parents as possible and became more urbane and street savvy than them. Although superficially it appeared I escaped, it is only of recent that I have really discovered that for the most part, my life has been clouded by what I now refer to as a twisted mould!

Although I was more subtle, the insidious behaviour of my formative years dominated who I was and despite trying to be different there were parental traits that I seemed powerless to be able to shake off.

For example, my husband is heavy-footed and slams doors. This behaviour invokes urges of violent rage in me as such noises are interpreted by the subconscious as warning signs of a bad tempered father arriving home with the inevitability of violence. Any of the classical pieces my father liked I simply cannot listen to. One example is Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, the first bars of which send me into apoplexy. Strangely enough I warm to the second and third movements (which my father didn't have).

But despite loathing my childhood experiences, there is clear evidence that I am a chip off the old block, whether I like it or not. Recent introspection has revealed alarming results. For example, while my father was and still is universally hated, I myself am not a popular person. It is something that hitherto I preferred to ignore, although I would never put myself up for any form of office where votes are cast, knowing full well I would get no support

In his books, Wayne Dyer points out the folly of allowing one's happiness to be dependent on other people liking us. To do so means that personal happiness is controlled by external forces, whereas it should come from within. However, I think that this can be misinterpreted. Through visualisation, I decided that the higher self didn't necessarily want to be better liked, but for inner peace there was a need to alter behavioural patterns.

With hindsight, much of my social interaction was tedious, argumentative, smart and cruel. In conversation, my brain was always looking for opportunities to indulge in smart quips, cutting comments, risque behaviour, self-aggrandisement etc, much of which I lived to regret. But I suppose therein is the difference between me and my dad. I can recognise the folly of my ways – he doesn't give a stuff (or at least that's what he says).

So here was the dilemma. On a conscious level I didn't like the way I interacted with people, but seemed helpless to change the software. I also indulged in excessive self-righteousness. If I had been sinned against then the world had to know about it with the result that my over-reacting caused far more suffering to me than the original wrong-doing! Oh how I needed to make a big song and dance about every little thing.

Of course, acknowledging one's faults is half the battle; paradoxically finding the antidote has been almost too easy for words. This is why I am taking time out to share my experience with you in the hope that others may derive benefit.

I simply went into peaceful place and worked very hard at recalling recent events, how I behaved, how I reacted, and more important, how others reacted towards me. It was as if I was visualising from above and what I saw made me realise that just like my father, I was excessively heavy-footed in everything I did. It appeared that I was acting up in order to get the attention of others. In metaphorical terms I was the one who dented all the cushions, left a smell in the bathroom, made too much noise, espoused too much wisdom and overstayed my welcome in a bid to emphasise my own self importance.

The higher self was mortified! The visual aberration was not me. The real me is a person who floats into situations, fleet of foot, makes the minimum of disturbance, makes no splashes and creates very little wake. The real me is a person is happy at just being me and doesn't need to indulge others in the minutiae of everyday life, just allowing achievements (if any) to talk for themselves. Thus, by deporting myself in a way concurrent with my higher thoughts, then as Wayne Dyer says, I don't have to worry what others think - it is unimportant.

Notwithstanding the fact that I needed to invoke powers that would override what seemed to be instinctive behaviour, I introduced a simple mantra in my morning meditation, repeated during subsequent visits to peaceful place throughout the day. The mantra takes the form of:
I am fleet of foot, I float into situations and float out on the breeze. I make minimal noise and take care to avoid negative impact on people, places and things. In so doing, I best serve my higher self, my fellow human beings and create inner contentment.

Nothing has had such a profound effect on me as this one simple exercise. By confronting my demons I have created space for my higher self to predominate and that's a really great feeling. Instead of the mind being on high-alert for things to attack, my thinking processes are dominated by the mantra. No longer do I need to win every argument or go to extraneous lengths to seek retribution. Hey, life is so good now!

In a matter of weeks my life has turned around completely. Doors seem to be opening that were previously locked and bolted not to mention an incredible sense of calm and serenity. My relationships with people are so much better, in fact opportunities seem to be coming at me from all angles.

Without indulging in false modesty, I suppose the real achievement is self- honesty; this has allowed me to see reality from a global perspective. Nonetheless, had it not been for the basic skills you imparted on that weekend course in 2001, none of this would be possible. ? (I would also be 91 kilos instead of 67-68)

My eternal gratitude.


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