“The longer my father’s killer was locked away, the greater the value of my father’s life.”
Anne Marie Hagan’s father, Thomas Hagan, was 56 years old when he was murdered in 1979 in the little fishing village of Kingman's Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. He received 16 axe cuts, seven in the head, neck and face. The 30-year-old man who committed the act was his neighbour. He was suffering from schizophrenia, and he believed that he'd heard the voice of his dead mother telling him to kill Thomas Hagan.
It was Sunday August 12, 1979. I was a 19-year-old nursing student home on summer holidays when I saw my father murdered with an axe. I tried to stop the man, but he axed me as well.
Filled with sadness and despair, I became completely consumed with anger, bitterness, vengeance, and self-pity. I was absolutely determined that this man would never, ever regain his freedom. The longer he was locked away, the greater the value of my father’s life.
Then, on June 7, 1996, during a comprehensive campaign I'd organized to stop his release, I talked with him face-to-face. It was during this meeting, while learning more about him as a human being and the horrendous suffering that he'd endured, that everything changed.
I’d not heard of the term restorative justice then but in that face-to-face meeting, which lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes, 16 years and 10 months of misery was just wiped away. As he started to cry and said, "I'm to blame, I'm to blame", I couldn't take it anymore. I rushed around the table and hugged him, telling him that I forgave him. I remember saying to him, "Blame is too strong a word, blame is too strong a word."
I could never have imagined that in doing so, I would set myself free. Finally I was able to let go of all the pain and torment that had held me captive, realizing that I'd been my own jailer. My life changed as I began to see the world through new eyes. I felt joy again, the numbness was gone.
My father's killer is now 59 years old. He has a job, and he's working towards a university degree. I admire him for having the strength and the courage to rebuild his life. I visit him regularly. We have talked at length about what happened on that fateful day, and how my forgiving him has changed both our lives.
In June 2002, my journey as a Motivational Speaker began. Since then I've spoken to thousands of people across Canada including police officers and prison inmates. Before I forgave my father’s killer I had zero compassion for such people. Now, I see each inmate as somebody's child.
Forgiveness is not permission. It doesn't mean that you agree with what the offender has done, or that they had a right to do what they did. Also, forgiveness cannot be conditional on remorse because that would mean we can only forgive those who are sorry. Forgiveness is recognizing that the offender is a human being who is deserving of kindness, compassion and love despite the harm they have done.
In that June 7, 1996 meeting, I awoke to the realization that if a loved one of mine committed murder, I would want the other cheek turned to them. And, that I did not have the right to demand more from the world than I was willing to give to this man.
I have been on a long journey since seeing my father murdered. I have learned to let go. I have learned that vengeance is blinding and that while I may have the right to miss my father, I do not have the right to judge, condemn, or hate who killed him. I have learned that while my life could never be the same after the murder, it didn't have to be worse. That was a matter of choice, my choice. And, I also learned that murder cannot destroy hope, faith, or love.
For more information about The Forgiveness Project in South Africa or to hire out the exhibition email Mandy de Waal at mandy[at]soulcircle.co.za.
For more information about The Forgiveness Project go to www.theforgivenessproject.co.za
Related Organisation: https://www.annemariehagan.com
There's a crisis in meaning in the workplace according to best-selling author Jerry Schuitema, who says the clues to re-establishing meaning lies in understanding that as humans we are here to serve. Schuitema is the author of “Value through Values”, a bold new book that questions our very understanding of business.
“South Africa and the world is facing a crisis of meaning in the workplace and only a major shift in the way we understand business will change this,” says Business Author and Economics Communicator Jerry Schuitema. The best-selling writer of “Econosense”, Schuitema's new book “Value Through Values”, investigates the nature and purpose of industry and questions the very nature of business and transaction.
“It is axiomatic that our true value lies in our capacity to make a contribution for the greater good, therefore contribution is central to bringing meaning back into the workplace. Employees who want to work for purpose and meaning rather than a mere salary would do well to ensure that their prospective employer's vision and mission is oriented on contribution rather than greed and taking,” he says.
Schuitema believes this crisis in meaning has been created by the fact that commercial values which have replaced higher values in both society and business. “Business chasing a pure profit motive sees people purely as resource or human capital from which the maximum material value must be extracted and this nurtures a climate where people work purely for material gain. Employees echo their hire's behaviour and go into the workplace with a take or greed mentality. Research shows that material wealth is no guarantee of meaning nor happiness and the real clues to finding these illusive states of mind lie in contribution or in being in service. The challenge to business is to recreate workplaces where people are empowered to serve and find meaning through this,” says Schuitema.
According to Schuitema business behaviour is fuelling a greed trend in which people no longer primarily work for meaning or purpose, but work to accrue wealth. Similarly the majority of businesses are not in business to serve the customer, but rather to serve the shareholder and to grow profits at all costs. Out now in all good book stores, “Value through Values” suggests that understanding transaction from a contributory point of view will not only address all current problems facing the economic world, but will enhance abundance and contentment on a personal, company, country and global level.