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The Life-Changing Power of Forgiveness

In 2008, Canadian freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout went to Somalia, where a band of teenagers kidnapped her and her group and demanded $3 million in ransom. During her 462-day captivity, she was tortured, starved and abused, and after trying to escape she lived in pain-causing chains for more than 10 months.  “I just couldn’t understand how people could be capable of reaching those kinds of depths to inflict that kind of suffering on another human being,” Lindhout said in a 10-minute news video interview with correspondent Bob Faw prepared for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a source for cutting edge journalism at the intersection of faith and culture. “I became consumed by anger and confusion and self pity and rage.” But, just when she was thinking about committing suicide, she says she had “a spiritual experience that absolutely changed everything for me. ...All of my desire to end my own life left me in that moment, and I became fueled by this desire to continue to live, to choose life no matter what they were going to do to me.”

What Lindhout discovered over time was that “I still had the power to choose my response to what was happening to me, to hold on to my own morals and my own values. I knew somehow at the deepest part of my being that if I chose forgiveness, that experience just would not have the power to crush me.” In a book about her ordeal, Lindhout describes how she began to build an imaginary house in the sky — “essentially a place that I could go in my own mind to escape my daily reality.” That house in the sky not only allowed her to survive, it is the place where her mind became strong. It is that mental strength that today helps her battle PTSD and continue to choose forgiveness. For more on practicing forgiveness, see the “Forgiveness” page at the website “Practicing our Faith.” Also see our article, “Best Resources on Spiritual Practices.”

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