Amid tragedy is forgiveness, accountability

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Forgiveness itself is not often a topic in an editorial, but the recent words of Lisa Clements, wife of slain Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements, inspire food for thought.

She stood with her two daughters by her side at her husband’s service March 25 in Colorado Springs and said, “We pray for forgiveness and peace for the family of the man suspected of taking Tom’s life, and we pray every day for forgiveness and peace in our own hearts.”

She noted she shares her husband’s belief in redemption and the ability for the human heart to be changed.

Her comments echo many other expressions of forgiveness in news reports through the years.

One surely was the reaction of the Amish community in Lancaster, Pa., after a 32-year-old gunman killed several girls in a one-room schoolhouse before killing himself in 2006.

While the Amish community was not inclined to interact with the media, its stance was clear to not think evil of the gunman and instead pray for the shooter’s family, which was further conveyed by neighbors who interacted with the tight-knit community. Some Amish even reached out to comfort the family of the gunman.

Although the level of forgiveness to some surely seemed too generous, it seemed to quiet the surrounding community as it respectfully honored the perspective of its neighbors, the direct victims of the shooting.

We noticed a similar effect following Lisa Clements’ thoughtful statements.

The complex mix of grieving, accountability and forgiveness is too much for any one editorial, but we venture to say the heart does not so quickly follow the mind once someone has decided to forgive. And while each person’s offer of forgiveness is based on various factors — such as whether remorse is expressed — a commitment to forgiveness reflects the best in all of us, a step toward mending and somehow improving the future to come.

In a recent CNN interview, Lisa Clements said she could be enraged but chooses not to be angry with news that an errant court proceeding allowed the gunman to be released from prison four years early.

She said she will not let it consume her. While she supports this need for accountability, we admire her strength as she champions a commitment to forgiveness and the steadfast view she shares with her husband that people can change.