Anger hurts. Forgiveness heals. This was the message preachers preached African American and white congregations across the country last Sunday following the mouth-dropping response viewers gave to the words of forgiveness Brandt Jean gave to Amber Guyger from the witness stand.
Brandt’s older brother, Botham Jean, was sitting in his own apartment, eating ice cream when Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, entered and fatally shot him, alleging she thought he was an intruder in her apartment located in the same building. Guyger was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Controversy of what some believe was a lenient sentence by the judge for yet another murder of an innocent Black man by a police officer could not raise to the level of shock over Brandt Jean’s words and the hug he gave Guyger after requesting permission from the judge to do so.
Essentially, Brandt Jean said he would forgive Guyger, but told her that “giving your life to Christ is the thing Botham would want you to do.”
The scene was all too familiar, and a reminder of the family members whose loved ones were murdered by Dylann Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, who fatally shot nine African American men and women who welcomed him to bible study at Mother Emmanual AME Church in Charleston, S.C. One by one, survivors offered words similar to Nadine Collier, the daughter of slain 70-year-old Ethel Lance, who said at Roof’s hearing, “I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Some argue that Black people are too forgiving and that their capacity to overcome violence and hate is linked to an undiagnosed case of post-traumatic slavery syndrome, buried in the DNA that only forgiveness has allowed them to overcome. But just like hate, deep-seeded anger kills.
It is not for us to judge or to criticize those who rely on their faith to get them through the most difficult times. In fact, it helps to have something to lean on when those times inevitably arrive. One may never forget, but faith provides the strength to forgive.