Forgive and Forget Ordinary people : Extraordinary forgiveness

"Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about the other person, me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done. Yes, he murdered my son - but the forgiveness is for me. It’s just for me." - Mary Johnson, mother her son, the victim of a shooting (1993)

"Forgive and forget" is a common phrase said in order to comfort those who want to let go of a wrong done to them. However, to what extent could one forgive when the events are unforgettable? There are several examples of how ordinary people have forgiven terrible wrongs or mistakes that change their lives. From murder to car crashes, anger is a common reaction when forgiveness seems hardly an option. In descending order, the next five stories show some of the greatest examples of mercy, despite unthinkable circumstances.

The widower and survivor of the crash regular meet for discussions together. (From left to right: Swatzell, Fitzgerald)


A car accident occurred after a fatigued EMT worker, Matthew Swatzell, fell asleep at the wheel and drifted into the middle of the road. He rammed into a car head on that held a pregnant mother and her child. The mother's life was lost along with the baby boy that she was carrying, but the daughter and sleepy driver survived. The husband, Erik Fitzgerald had to decide how steep of a crime that Swatzel committed in order to determine how justice would be served. Fitzgerald gave the least amount of punishment for his crime, and he now has a relationship with Matthew Swatzell, despite the tragedy and loss that he went through. The short video made by his Fitzgerald's church explained that he wanted to see from the perspective of the driver, and how it was not his fault. This is how Erik was about to forgive and have compassion. Together they bonded and helped each other through the season of trauma and loss (New Spring Church, 2011). Both men were extremely ordinary, however, they were able to overcome what was inflicted on each other and support love.


Mary Johnson and the her son's murderer hugging with his biological mother.

The Today news team created an article to report how a mother's love extended further than family. In 1993 a man was shot at a party, and the victim's mother only wanted justice for her only son. Mary Johnson watched Oshea Israel, the murderer, get sentenced to 20 years in prison. Over the years, she began to feel convicted of her anger towards the man in jail. When he was released, he moved back to where he first resided, in the same neighborhood as the mother of his victim. She made the news by throwing a homecoming party for him when he was released from prison. Johnson publicly announced her forgiveness and sobbed after hugging the ex-convict (Luiz, 2013). The two people now have a unique relationship and share their story with others in order to spread love and forgiveness to others.

3. Steven McDonald

A report on astonishing acts of forgiveness accounts for the example of a police officer's response to being shot. In 1986, Steven McDonald New York City police officer, was shot by a 15-year-old boy who he was questioning for stealing bikes. One of the teenagers, Shavod Jones, pulled a gun and McDonald was hit three times. Doctors saved his life, but he was left paralyzed with a respirator to breathe. McDonald's wife of not even a year, stuck by his side during the full recovery after the incident. Rather than feel anger and resentment, he forgave the boy who shot him. The former cop even met up with Jones in prison for him to make amends. The two men wanted to work together to promote forgiveness and non-violence after Jones was released, however, the pair could not follow through with their plans when he was killed in a motorcycle shortly after he got out of jail. Steven McDonald still put in effort to raise awareness of the importance of forgiveness (Garcia, 2013). Although he was wronged by the shooter, who eventually received justice, the cop continued to overlook his trauma and support forgiveness for the sake of Shavod Jones.

Gun Protester after Sandy Hook Shooting

2. Sandy Hook: Controversial Forgiveness

December 14th, 2012 was a date that shook the town of Newtown, CT, along with the rest of the world. Similar to the shooter of Lancaster, innocent live's of children were taken by the hand of a 20 year old man named Adam Lamza, before he shot himself in the head. Over 20 families were faced with the tragedy of losing a young family member. One mother of a child lost in the shooting had a remarkable response to the traumatic experience. She extended forgiveness and compassion toward the shooter and his mother. Scarlett Lewis walked through her loss by fighting anger and sorrow with empathy and loving memories. From this experience, she started an organization called the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement. She turned the horror and tragedy of December 12th into a movement of forgiveness and love. The mother described how her instinct was always to be the best guardian for her son, and the movement was how she carried on her love after his death. (Lewis, 2013)

1. Amish Overcome Expectations with Forgiveness

On October 2nd of 2006, a shooting occurred in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 10 girls were shot dead out of the 26 students who attended the one room school house for Amish children. Charles Carl Roberts IV was the shooter, who claimed revenge against God for the death of his daughter's sake. Shortly after he murdered all 10 children, Roberts committed suicide. Such a homicide shocked the nation as reporters flooded into Lancaster County. A man filled with vengeance intruded into the peaceful community with violence. However, the nation was equally shocked by the kind, empathetic response from the Amish. Jeff Glor, a reporter for CBS news, described how peace was exhibited by the community as they displayed unconditioned forgiveness towards the shooter and his family. The Amish outweighed the English at Roberts' funeral, and the whole county came together to support not only the families of the children, but also the murderer (Glor, 2013). This act of forgiveness takes first place because an entire culture was violated through one act of violence. The gentle community was disturbed, yet the Amish people still chose forgiveness.

Five incredible, unimaginable examples of forgiveness show that even when one cannot forget their situation, it is still possible to relay mercy and compassion in order to forgive. Understanding can go great lengths in order to change how someone may spend the rest of their lives. Ordinary people go through incomprehensible tragedies, yet display extraordinary responses. Their examples show that everyone is able to show kindness despite what the surrounding circumstances may be.


Garcia, A. (2013, October 31). 10 Extraordinary Examples of forgiveness. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from

Glor, J. (2013, December 12). Mother of Amish school shooter shares amazing story of forgiveness. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from

Lewis, S. (2015, March 5) I Forgave My Son's Killer. Woman's Day. N.p., 05 Mar. 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from

New Spring Church. (2011, September 07). "Forged in Forgiveness" - Erik and Matthew's StoryRetrieved March 28, 2017, from

Ruiz, R. (2013, September 19). How do you forgive a killer? A mother moves past tragedy. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from


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