Yesterday I met a man who understands forgiveness. His name is Col. Glenn Frazier and he is, as my father was, a survivor of the Bataan Death March and internment in a prisoner of war slave labor camp. My mother and I had gone to Atlanta to a meeting of the WWII Roundtable, a group that invites speakers to talk about all aspects of WWII. There are veterans of that war and their families, and others who are simply fascinated by its history.
Col. Frazier showed an excerpt of an excellent Ken Burns film on Bataan and the Japanese prison camps and then he rose to share his experience. The first thing I noticed about him was his smile and the twinkle in his eyes.
For 30 years, he told us, he hated his captors “with a purple passion.” When he realized that all this time they were just living their lives, not even aware of him, while this hatred was eating him alive, he got down on his knees and prayed to be delivered of it. After a couple of years of prayer and focus, he was.
Many people might hear Col. Frazier’s presentation and come away with the central idea that we must protect our country’s way of life above all else. For me, the most important thing he said is that we must forgive, because hatred and bitterness harms only us, not the intended target. Just as the Dalai Lama calls the Chinese his “greatest teachers,” opportunities to learn forgiveness can be brutal and severe. It seems the more brutal the experiences, the more profound and unshakeable the conviction that the only way to truly be free is to forgive. It is not an original premise; I have read and heard it before. Col. Frazier, and my dad, and many other people from all different countries, have faced hatred and bitterness and learned forgiveness. Sometimes the war inside is worse even than the one outside, because until we change, it never ends. It has been called “owning our feelings” and “taking responsibility” for our thoughts and actions. It may be the hardest inner work a person does in a lifetime.
May we be blessed with easy lessons. May we learn tolerance and patience with each other’s habits and beliefs so that some day we no longer have to fight each other and can put our energies toward making this world a good place to live for everyone on it.
Sukoshi Rice practices wellness in Blairsville, GA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.