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Columnist: The power of forgiveness – can you really do it?

Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

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In March of 2003, 25-year-old Adrian Robinson in Harris County, Georgia, woke up apparently with evil on his mind.

Believing that his father, Henri – my friend and former high school classmate – had molested him as a child, he took a high powered assault rifle and shot him more than 14 times, killing him instantly. Seeing the aunt and uncle in the distance after the killing, he reloaded and pumped several shots in their direction, narrowly missing them.

Something snapped in this young man, who had previously been a popular wrestling champion in the county.

Not satisfied, he made his way to the home of two nuns who were active in the community, especially the prison ministry. One of the nuns was so popular she was lovingly called the “Mother Teresa” of the community – a nun who lived in India who dedicated her life to providing services to the poor.

He hurriedly kidnapped them, taking their car and over $900 of their money and headed to Norfolk, Virginia. After his arrival, he was able to secure lodging without detection or suspicion from motel employees. He quickly tied one of them to a post in the room and left the motel with the other nun.

What he did shocked even the most seasoned homicide investigators.

On the run – with a national alert to law enforcement to be on the look-out for him relating to the murder of his father – this young man took the nun to an office complex and ceremoniously mutilated his victim, severing the head, arms and legs from her body

Robinson was later apprehended without incident at a Burger King in Virginia. An employee recognized him from the photos provided by various media sources concerning his crime and called authorities.

Forgiveness, not hatred, brings Harris County together

Even though the community was angry at Adrian O. Robinson for his horrific acts of violence against his father and the nuns, the theme and climate at the father’s funeral was “forgiveness, not hatred.” The funeral was well-attended by white and black community stakeholders who actually prayed for Adrian.

Forgiveness from the grave saves a life

The state of Virginia clearly wanted Robinson to pay for his crime with his life. The nun, who was killed, favorably called the “Mother Teresa” of Harris County, Georgia, however, had stated while living to those in her “religious order,” that if someone happened to take her life, she did not believe in capital punishment resulting in another life being taken as retribution. The prosecutors in the case reluctantly honored her wish from the grave, and Robinson was spared from execution.

A personal testimony

A few years ago I was ousted from my job as an educator with a former employer because of my ongoing feelings that teachers were tampering with tests used by the school system for placement or promotional purposes. I was a test proctor, so I personally witnessed this cheating.

During the same period, I discovered that my chief financial officer of more than 10 years had intentionally manipulated a grant my agency had received from the government. I immediately terminated him, but his actions cost me more than $334,000.

I temporarily became depressed and questioned why God had allowed these thing to happen to me. Consumed with anger and depression one night, the Bible passage Psalm 3:3 came to me in my dream, and I knew then that everything was going to be alright. I knew that it was God talking to me letting me know that he would be my “shied and the lifter up of my head” during the crisis I was experiencing.

It was at this juncture that I began the process of forgiving the people who had egregiously caused me harm.

You know what? The school system that ousted me was involved in the test cheating scandal of the century, found guilty of causing harm to thousands of children. The employee who cost me the money has not been seen in public since I fired him from my agency.

If someone causes you irreparable harm, could you truly forgive them?

I did.

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at glenn.dowell@gmail.com.