The Hiding Place and Forgiveness

I just finished reading "The Hiding Place", by Corrie Ten Boom. (Yes, I know that I just blogged about reading 'Mormon Enigma', which I'm still reading. I just took a break from the history to read "The Hiding Place", and well, I couldn't put it down and basically read it in 2 days. Sorry. I'm back to Emma now, I promise!) The Wiz told me it was one of those books that can change your life. I think she's right. For those of you who are not familiar with this book, a brief synopsis: A Dutch family is arrested for hiding Jews during WWII, and 2 sisters are eventually sent to a concentration camp. Through a series of small miracles, they are able to have a bible in their camp, and read from it every night. They preach the Word of God while they are living in Hell. And they feel God's love even as they are treated with hate. They bless those who curse them. They forgive those who imprisoned and tortured them, although the author admits that this was almost the one thing she could not do. When one of her guards seeks her out and asks her forgiveness for his horrid treatment of her, she falters. She manages it, though, and it is a powerful scene in the book. So, I'm thinking about all of this, and if I could have handled things that way these sisters did. Um, probably not. But I think that if I were alone, and if my life were just about me, it might be easier to be that way. But I'm not alone. My life is not just about me. I'm a mother. My life is largely about my son. It seems that it would be easier to forgive somebody if they hurt me, or even if they hurt somebody I cared deeply about, like a friend, or another family member. But if somebody tormented and tortured and ultimately murdered my child with hate, how does one forgive that? How does one tell a child who has been hurt that he has to move on, to forgive, and then also, as a mother, forgive that person too? If the hurt is slight enough, sometimes it's doable. If the hurt is deep, however, I tend to see red, and want to protect and defend my child. I imagine most mothers feel the same way. There's a story about a man who went to Iraq after Saddam Hussein was captured to survey things over there. He was led to a building which was said to house prisoners, enemies of the state. This man was told that the prison actually held only children, young people who were paying for their parent's crimes. The parents had spoken out against Saddam Hussein, so their children were then imprisoned. Sounds like an effective silencing tool to me. Oh, you won't torture me, you'll torture my kid instead? O.k., I'll keep quiet. It's not lost on me that many revolutions and massive political and social changes are started largely by radical student groups. They have less to lose, so they feel they can risk it all. And yet, forgiveness is vital to our survival as a civilized society, and Christ has told us in no uncertain terms that He expects us to forgive all. Again, seems simple enough when we are talking about just me. But again, my life is not about just me. I think to forgive somebody who has hurt a child, my child, may be the very hardest thing Christ could ever ask. I think I need to go give Jacob a hug.


Blogger Abby said...

It is so amazing to me that the human spirit after so much suffering can still have a desire for Christ like action.
It is a powerful book. I have been to one of the concentration camps in Germany, and I believe I too would have faltered in my desire to forgive my oppressors. She was an amazing person.

I hope we never have cause to test our ability to forgive someone who truly wrongs us.

1/23/2006 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger heidi said...

I also love this book. It taught me about the atonement. That Jesus can give you the love that you really can't get on your own.

Now I want to read it again. I need some reminders on the importance of forgiveness and love.

1/23/2006 01:32:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

I told you so!!! (but in a good way). I'm re-reading it now, and I've been in tears twice already, and they haven't even been caught yet.

She talks about in the very beginning how your memories are gifts from God to help you prepare for what's ahead. That struck me the first time I read it, and it's struck me again. Because we often remember an experience differently than it actually happened. So, the teaching is in how we remember it, as well as how we endure it.

1/23/2006 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Very nice post, Heather(I haven't read the book, but my RS pres. recommended we all read it)

I think you are dead-on right about the mother-instinct to protect her child- I could stand many injustices to myself, but when I imagine the same for my children, I feel physically ill and would do anything to spare them. There isn't a mother I have ever heard of who would not plead "take me instead!".

As far as forgiveness, I too hope we never have cause to be tested- I am not sure if my heart or faith have the capacity to do as the Savior requires us. It makes me love Christ all that much more...

1/23/2006 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger nestle said...

As a mother who can't even be in the room and hear her child cry while they get their vaccinations I agree. Hurting my child is the surest way to torture a mother.

1/23/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

It is a *great* book that everyone should read. So is Night by Elie Wiesel (which is Oprah's latest book club book, I noticed), although in a different way--Elie loses his faith in God. I think he regains it later, but I haven't read his other sequel book.

His experience is much worse than the Ten Boom's, and it's a brutal read--he sees parents doing things to their own children for scraps of bread. Starvation and the brutal conditions they were subject to seemed to turn them into animals.

I think both books should be required reading.

1/23/2006 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


You're right, "Night" is a much more brutal book with much more brutal experiences. I think there are 2 reasons for this: A) Wiesel was Jewish, whereas the Ten Booms were not B) Wiesel was at a male camp, and even the Ten Booms talked about how their camp was a little more humane than the male camp. They talk about how there are random executions over there, and more loss of life. Also, the camp Wiesel was at was Auschwitz, and I don't think it gets any worse than that.

I had a class from Elise Wiesel at Boston University, and it was fascinating. And even though there are lots of references to losing faith in 'Night', there are just as many prayers offered to God, too. We did 'Night' in our bookgroup, and discussed the blatent contrasts between some of his statements about faith and there being no God. And given that Wiesel has since dedicated his life to promoting peace in this world, it's pretty clear he still believes there is a God.

1/23/2006 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Another thought provoking book on the topic of forgiveness is The Sunflower by Simon Weisenthal. He talks about a concentration camp survivor who is asked forgiveness of a dying guard.

I've read Night, I have it, but I can't remember it now. I'll have to go find it again.

I'm not sure I can forgive people who hurt my kids, though. I haven't even tried yet. I'm still working on forgiving myself.

1/23/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger ubercyl said...

Will put the book on my must-read list.

I have often said that I could more easily forgive someone for killing my child than for molesting him and sparing his life so he can suffer the memories endlessly.

1/23/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a mother who is currently dealing with a pretty terrible situation, I can tell you that you don't know what you will do until you have to.

The stuggles that we are having have the greatest impact on one person in our family, but have damaged us all. Loss of trust,loss of joy, loss of peace, loss of hope. It is a complete paradigm shift. It feels like the whole world comes crashing down and all the happy things are gone. It is an awful thing to see the ugly underbelly of our society and know that you can never un-see it. Slowly, slowly you start to climb out of the hole and you can see the potential for joy and light.

I have been able to reconcile and am starting to deal with the damage done to myself and the family as a whole, but the hurt and future hurt that one of my children will never be free of is somthing that weighs heavily on me.

I have had about a few year's persepctive on our situation and I can start to see how that keeping the hate and rancor is what keeps the darkness and gloom in my life. It is only when I am able to be free of that poison that I will be able to have all of the peace and joy and light back in our life. I don't want to be unhappy anymore. I don't want to feel this grief and this soul sucking emotion that takes every ounce of energy to fight. I am tired of the control that it dictates over my life and my family. We will never NOT be hurt and not remember this damage, but hurt is different then hate.

Christ did teach us to forgive those that tresspass against us. As long as I don't do that, I am not entitled to the full blessings of the gospel. Right now, I view those blessings as peace in my soul. Being able to process our situation with out the visceral emotion. I want to see the good first in people and trust that most people are ok, and it is just the few that we have to watch out for. At this point, forgiveness seems like an easy thing to get all that back. But figuring out how to do it is the hard part. It is a hard pill to swallow. I am just glad Christ didn't put a time frame on it. :-) I hope that I can get there someday, because that is the only way that I can effectively mother my children and hopefully, help them deal with these same feelings that I have had in the future. For a long time, I couldn't imagine shedding the hate and couldn't even think about forgiveness. Now I am starting to see that it is the only way to be free.

I haven't read either of those books and I am sure that what those people experienced is something I cannot even imagine. I don't pretend to understand what they must have felt or done. It is unthinkable. I do know that until I was put in an unbearable situation, I was sure I would think or do certian things in certian situations. Ultimately, I want my family to be as close as it can be to how it was Before. That is the only way.

It is a tricky thing.

1/23/2006 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger FluffyChicky said...

I totally agree with the comments made by "anonymous." Forgiveness can be such a hard thing to ask for and hard to give. When I was in high school, I dated a young man for 3 years. We had even made plans to get married after graduation. Those plans were placed in serious jeopardy when his ex-girlfriend came to him claming that she thought she was pregnant and that he was the father. She turned out not to be, but the rest of the situation was unfortunately true. While he had been making plans with me to marry in the temple, he had been seeing his old girlfriend at the same time. He begged me to forgive him for what he had done. He even when to his bishop and confessed everything. Against my better judgement, I did not end my relationship with him. I continued to date him, still hoping that we still could be married in the temple. After high school, he joined the army and left for six months for basic training. But, before he left, he "persuaded" me to sleep with him. I won't go into further detail that that. It took a long time for me to forgive him for what had happend. I never saw him again, but he would occasionally send letters to my parents house. By the time he got out of army, I was married to my wonderful husband and had my two lovely children. The true test of whether I had forgiven him came a year ago. My family and I had just moved to a new ward and the first day I went to church, his sister walked into sacrament meeting, saw me, sat down next to me, and proceeded to talk to me about everything that had happened in his life since I had left. She had no idea why our relationship ended, only that her brother had said that things "didn't work out." I smiled politely and tried to show interest while she was talking, all the while fighting the urge to run and hide from her. The worst thing came a few weeks later when I went to church alone (husband and kids were sick and I had to go to play the piano for primary) and he was there with his sister. He had gotten married and had a little boy. He saw me even though I had done everything I could to NOT be seen. He told me how sorry he was for everything that had happened. My first impulse was to run screaming in terror. The second was to kick him dead in the...um, nose. However, much to my suprise (and to his) I calmly said that I was sorry too, told him his child was adorable, and turned and left the building. Later that night, I told my husband what had happened at church. He was as suprised at my reaction as I was. He then made the comment that I must have really forgiven him for what had happened. I truly don't know if I have done that, but I at least have to a point that I am comfortable with and I think that the Lord is comfortable with. We later moved to a different city and I have not heard or seen him since. Anyway, I'm not sure why I went into that. I was just agreeing that forgiveness is had hard thing and that I am going to have to read those books. :)

1/23/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

My bookclub finished reading this one a couple of months ago and I loved it.

There is so much goodness in her but I love the way she expresses her doubts and sees her sister as the unwavering one.

I wonder if hers sister would have written the book differently with the roles reversed.

We often see each other as the "one" who doubts, the "one" who can't always see the big picture or the "one" who just sort of stumbles upon doing a great work. In the end, I think we are all far more amazing and stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

1/25/2006 12:32:00 AM  

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