"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~Mahatma Gandhi
One of the most important elements of spiritual and emotional growths is the act of forgiveness. It allows us to shed the emotional bonds of anger and resentment that keeps us from growing, from achieving greater things.
Spider-Man 3 is one of my all-time favorite movies, not only because I was a huge Spider-Man fan as a kid, but also because the underlying theme of the movie was forgiveness. It's not until Harry forgives Peter do they find the strength to overcome the combined might of Sandman and Venom. Peter learns to forgive himself. Sandman asks for, and receives, forgiveness. Venom is the only one that cannot find the strength to forgive, and is ultimately destroyed.
I recently discovered BAD RAP's blog site and have really enjoyed reading and participating in the exchanges in the individual blog comments. The most heated discussions revolve around the Michael Vick case.
Some of the details of the case are pretty horrific. The dog fighting aspect, by itself, is bad enough. What really got everyone's attention were allegations that eight of the dogs were killed for failing "performance" tests. Methods used to kill these dogs were said to have included strangulation, hanging, electrocution, and having their bodies slammed to the ground.
Two others that were being charged reached plea agreements in exchange for their testimony against Vick. Vick's contract with the Atlanta Falcons was cancelled. Multi-million dollar endorsement deals were also cancelled. The NFL has suspended him indefinitely. Vick was convicted on Federal charges and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. He may still have to face state charges when he is released from Federal prison.
It has been estimated that between his NFL contract and many endorsements Vick has lost about $140 million in potential income.
Even if Vick manages to avoid state charges there is no guarantee that the NFL will grant his reinstatement, and even if he does manage to get reinstated there is no guarantee any NFL franchise will want him. Many NFL experts feel that Vick's playing career is over.
Michael Vick deserves to be punished, and, indeed, he is.
Last month the Washington Post's website ran a photo gallery of featuring the survivors of Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels" with accompanying audio clips from those involved in their welfare. Click here if you'd like to see it. The first soundbite is from a local animal shelter volunteer actually thanking Vick for putting dog fighting in the public spotlight.
Is it actually possible that something good can come from this tragedy? It made me think about what the possibilities could be. What would be gained if we could bring ourselves to forgive Michael Vick? I offered this comment on the BAD RAP blog site:
"I know there are those who will disagree with what I'm about to say but I feel it needs to be said. I'm rooting for Michael Vick. I feel the man should be given a chance to redeem himself like he said he would at that press conference. I want to believe that he really is sorry. I want to believe he really has seen the error of his ways. I hope that he leads a successful career when he is released from prison.
The dogs given to BAD RAP are the perfect analogy. These were animals that would have been put to death if it weren't for BAD RAP stepping in and saying, "Wait a minute. These dogs shouldn't summarily judged as being beyond help. Just give them a chance." (or words to that effect).
I'm sure that there are many who feel that Vick he is a horrible person that did horrible things and should be thoroughly punished and should not be allowed to play football ever again. And while that sentiment is understandable I believe it would be unfair to have given those dogs a chance at redemption but not extend that same chance at redemption to Vick as well.
Malcolm X is one of my heroes. He was a drug user, a drug dealer, a pimp, and a thief before he went to prison, turned his life around and became one of the greatest heroes of the civil rights movement. People CAN redeem themselves, but only if they're given the opportunity.
Here's my crazy wish for Michael Vick. My wish is that he really has seen the error of his ways, that decides to champion the fight against animal cruelty when he is released from prison, regains his superstardom in the NFL, and uses his fame to raise awareness for the cause.
I know it's nuts of me to hope for such a thing, but wouldn't it be great if it happened? I think it's worth giving it a chance."
I wasn't expecting anyone to agree with me, and no one did. Vick hasn't done yet to earn anyone's forgiveness, but I am eagerly waiting to see what he does when he is released from prison.