To Forgive, or Not to Forgive (that IS the question)–repost
Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
(Author’s note: This is an article I wrote seven years ago. With the news of Harvey Updyke’s death, I hope I am keeping my promise below.)
Six months of prison, about half of which has already been served, with a laughable probation after that. And when he gets out, he’ll be a hero to thousands, if not millions, for the rest of his pathetic life.
Upon first reflecting on this, I figured that if Hell didn’t exist already, God would have to create it for a situation like Harvey Updyke.
I went to A-Day, but I was not able to attend the “One Last Roll” that evening. My understanding from Track ‘Em Tigers founder Jay Coulter is that far from being a funeral, the Last Roll was a testament to the Auburn Spirit, and nothing but positive. Justin Lee at The War Eagle Reader even wrote “Thanks, Harvey” for the opportunity for all of us Auburn folks to unite in celebration of everything good about Auburn, without dwelling on the injury itself or even acknowledging the existence of the “other side” in whose hijacked name this heinous act was committed.
Although I know I would have enjoyed it and been caught up in all the enthusiasm and positivity, it was probably good that I did not go, considering how far from positive I still feel about this whole thing. (I wanted to bring an effigy of “Al from Dadeville” to hang on the trees, even though I know that would have been totally tacky and out of place.) I watched the “Roll Tide / War Eagle” DVD last weekend; seeing that son-of-a-bitch lie through his teeth about not poisoning the Toomers Oaks just re-affirmed my nothing-but-negative feelings about Updyke.
But there is another side to this whole episode. Rarely are any of us presented in our lives with such a clear-cut challenge to fulfill Our Lord’s command to forgive those who do wrong to us. In this case, we even have the luxury of losing “only” a pair of trees, rather than a human loved one, from this act of violence.
With my unhealthily overdeveloped sense of justice, I have a very, very hard time excusing anyone from anything (including myself). However, real forgiveness is not something that excuses anything. It is more an acknowledgement of the tragedy of human failings, or a disappointment that a person didn’t live up to what they could be. Perhaps this is what makes forgiving one’s own self the hardest thing to do sometimes.
Driving around Atlanta, I see many bumper stickers featuring the Spanish word “Perdona.” A search on the web revealed a Spanish-language site dedicated to spreading the message of forgiveness, including quotes from many great figures pointing out that the act of forgiving benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven. On Christian radio, there is a song entitled “Forgiveness” (by Matthew West) with lyrics such as these:
It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you
You even have the Lord’s own words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Of course, as I pointed out in an earlier post, this perpetrator is so stupid that he really didn’t understand the enormity of what he did, which was to attack and try to kill everything good for which Auburn stands.)
It’s hard to argue with all of that, isn’t it. I guess all of this is calling us to a specific action, isn’t it.
Consequently (and since I am writing this down for everyone to see, God and everyone else can hold me to it), Harvey Almon Updyke, I forgive you. I hope you come to a sense of regret beyond merely that for being caught, or for the “harm” you caused your Crimson Tide “family,” or being the butt-end of the righteous indignation, anger, and hatred from hundreds of thousands of AU (and many UA) folks. For your own salvation depends on coming to that true sense of regret, just as mine requires me to make good on my statement above. So, Al from Dadeville, I hope I see you in Heaven.
The way I still feel, I wouldn’t lay odds on either of us being there, though.
(who hopes he can really forgive him who trespassed against us)
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