Update: 2017-05-1213


When loss, violence or betrayal test our willingness to forgive — how do we do it anyway? This hour, TED speakers explore the challenges and benefits of forgiving others and ourselves. TED speakers include Sue Klebold, Thordis Elva, Tom Stranger, and Elizabeth Lesser.

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the world gift of the human had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rise and show today ideas about forgiveness asking for it offering if and why it can be so hard to forgive others and even ourselves and in this episode could hear some pretty difficult story stories that have to do with loss and violence and the trail stories that would test anyone's willingness to forgive you for stalking you can introduce yourself please yes this is soo clean bowled and you are talking to us from Denver Colorado so the nearly twenty years ago something happens that pursue really shattered her world and her whole life and what happened is still with her all the time I'll hear a name that might be a family name of one of the victims or I see an individual going down the street in a wheelchair and there about the age that they would have benefited been injured and I get a visceral reaction was Who's talking about was a national tragedy and if you're too young to remember hearing about it on the news you've definitely heard about it since here Sue on the Ted stage the last time I heard my son's voice was when he walked out the front door on its way to school he called out one word in the darkness by it was April twentieth nineteen ninety nine later that morning at Columbine High School my son Dylan and his friend Eric killed twelve students and a teacher and wounded more than twenty others before taking their thirteen innocent people were killed others sustained injuries some resulting in disfigured Mountain permanent disability there's no way to assess the magnitude of the tragedies like Columbine especially when it can be a blueprint for other shooters who go on to commit atrocities of their own Columbine was a tidal wave and went to crash and it would take years for the community and for society to comprehend its intact today on here to share the experience of what it's like to be the mother of someone who kills and hurts the tragedy convince me that I failed as a parent it's partially his sense of failure that brings me here today aside from his father I was the one person who knew and loved Dylan the most if anyone could have known what was happening it should detainees rights but I didn't know book for many years after the tragedy did you ask yourself What could I have done just that question all the time I asked myself the question all the time I continue to ask myself that question all the time in my mind as the mother of someone who took his own life and killed and hurt other people I feel tremendous guilt now of course guilt is part of parenting I don't think of many parents they don't feel guilty about something even if their children turned out just fine but in this case you know I I couldn't think of anything I had done to teach him that violence was a solution to any problem but for me I have to own this this is the path of my life I didn't choose it but I own it and there's no way to run away from the zoo after the Columbine shootings Susie entire life unraveled for years she and her husband Elwood lawsuits which forced them into bankruptcy they eventually split up in two thousand once he was diagnosed with breast cancer and then she began to suffer from extreme anxiety and panic attacks and all this while trying to understand and to process what Dylan did it the the has forgiveness in something that you've thought a lot about over the years my synonym for forgiveness is empathy for me what forgiveness is it is the ability to understand and put yourself in the other person's shoes to see what they were thinking experiencing and feeling because they need to forgive disappears once we have understanding it has helped me to do the research I've done on brain health to try to understand in my thinking that Dylan didn't merely choose to do this in the same way that you and I would make this decision as were sitting here talking and if I had to explain suicide to a child if someone lost an uncle for example what we would say to a child is your uncle became sick in his brain and he couldn't think the way we think and because of that he hurt himself or in Dylan's case he heard other people and that's sort of the way I process this me when I talk about my son's death as a suicide I'm talking about mental health in the same breath I'm talking about violence but the last thing I want to do was to contribute to the misunderstanding that already exists around mental illness only a very small percent of those who have mental illness are violent toward other people but of those who died by suicide it's estimated that about seventy five to maybe more than ninety percent have a diagnosis of all mental health condition of some kind but my son's death was not purely a suicide involve mass murder I wanted to know how his suicidal thinking became homicidal that research is sparse and there are no simple answers yes he probably had ongoing depression he had experienced triggering events at the school that left him feeling to baste and humiliated and mad it was appalling Lehi for a seventeen year old boy to buy guns both legally and illegally without my permission or knowledge and somehow seventeen years in many school shootings later it's still appalling Lee easy it has taken me years to try to accept my sons like to see the cruel behavior that defined the end of his life showed me that he was a completely different person from the one afterwards people ask How could you not know kind of a mother were you I still ask myself those same questions people would say to me didn't you ever tell Dylan that you loved him didn't shoo you know he did you ever hugged Dylan and that would infuriate me it would infuriate me and I would say of course idea I took his face in my hands and I told him I loved him you know my eyes eight inches from his on but the truth is before this would happen to me I was sort of like everyone else I believe that you know some people were bad or did bad things and I would certainly if it was a young person instantly think that the parents were responsible I think people are horrified terrified by the thought that something like this could happen and I think they had a need you to believe that it had to been something that was done through negligence or poor parenting and that has helped me alot to try to understand and cope with when I am attacked when people are angry with me when people blame me it's terrifying to think that we can do our best and do things that are good in right and do something as horrible as this can still happen as a parent to use do struggle with the idea of forgiving yourself that's the hardest part that if there's anything that I still struggle with it's that I don't think you can lose a child to suicide and not look back and wish you had done something differently to save them and the other question of course I have dealt with is the concept of whether or not people forgive me and you know in my heart I think I tried in every way to love my son to raise him I did not know if there were magic words that could have been said if there were interventions that could have been made at the time I get the best I could do for him because of him because I loved him and I would not want him to come to any harm under any circumstances how have you interacted with families who were affected by the tragedy you have any interaction with any any of them I do this has always been one of the most difficult things that I've had to deal with because right from the beginning I wanted to connect um I I wrote letters to the families I We made a public apology in the newspaper but honestly there's no rule book for how to do this all of the families everybody was different every one was an individual and even in one family their reactions to this tragedy would be different I didn't want to re traumatized people but over the years a few of the family members and I will say individuals from families know entire families but the individuals have reached out to me and we've developed a relationship and it's been for my perspective wonderful and healing I think for for both the I know that I will live with this tragedy for the rest of my life I know that in the minds of many but I lost can't compare to what the other families lost I know my struggle doesn't make there's an easier but here's something I've learned if love were enough to stop someone who was suicidal from hurting themselves suicides would hardly ever happen but love is not enough I'd learned that no matter how much we want to believe we can we cannot know or control everything our loved ones think and feel and a stubborn belief if we are somehow different that someone we love would never think of hurting themselves or someone else can cause us to miss what's hidden in plain sight and if worst case scenarios do come to pass we'll have to learn to forgive ourselves for not knowing for not asking the right questions are not finding the right treatment in the end what I know comes down to this even the most vigilant and responsible of us may not be able to help but for love sake we must never stop trying thank you to people she would a better story in a book called A Mother's reckoning living in the aftermath of tragedy by the way all the profits from that book are being donated to organizations that work for mental health awareness research and suicide prevention you can see Suze entire talk to that calm on the show today ideas about forgiveness and Guy rise and listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the oral o Hey Everyone Just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who helped make this podcast possible First Home advisor cum advisor makes it fast and easy to find reliable pros for any kind of home projects from handyman services to remodeling the kitchen Good Home advisor dot com and tell them about your project then home by her majesty with top rated local pros 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thirty second you'll need to hear me the snow and calm stranger on here in London have taken him in the skin you know could guess I can the the three of us were talking to one another from three different countries thirty s and Tom have actually known each other since they were teenagers third disc to Iceland and Tom who's from Australia spent some time there through an exchange program in nineteen ninety six became friends say started dating about a month into a room something happened something like the septum of this nature that marks you so deeply well of course always be a part of who it's never gonna be something that I can just you know cut away from my existence this was something like it in this is something I wasn't willing to share with anyone for a long time thirty Silva and Tom stranger tell their story from the Ted stage and just a quick warning the stock does include some graphic language and descriptions of sexual violence I was sixteen in love for the first time going to get into the Christmas dance was a public confirmation of our relationship and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world no longer a child for a young woman high on my new found maturity I felt it was only natural to try drinking rum for the first time that night too I was a bad idea I became very ill tasting and out of consciousness in between spasms of convulsions vomiting and the security guards wanted to come an ambulance but Tom acted as my knight in shining armor and told them he'd take me home it was like a fairytale his strong arms around me laying me in the safety of my bed but the gratitude that I felt towards him soon turned to horror as he proceeded to take off my clothes and get on top of me my head cleared up but my body was still too weak to fight back in the pain was blinding I thought I'd be severed into in order to stay sane I silently counted the seconds on my alarm clock and ever since that night I've known that there are seven thousand two hundred seconds in two hours despite limping for days in crying for weeks this since it didn't fit my ideas of our ape like I'd seen on TV Tom was an armed lunatic he was my boyfriend and it didn't happen in a seedy alley way it happened in my own bed by the time I could identify would happen to me as rape he had completed his exchange program and left for Australia so told myself it was pointless to dress what happens and besides they had to have been my fault somehow I was raised in a world where girls are taught that they get grapes for a reason their skirt was too short her smile was to widen their breath smelled of alcohol and I was guilty of all of those things so the shame had to be mine it took me years to realize that only one thing could have stopped me from being raped that night and it wasn't my skirt it wasn't my smile it wasn't my childish trusts the only thing that could have stopped me from being raped that night is the man who raped me had he stopped himself have vague memories of the next day the after effects of drinking certain holiday I tried to stop nothing more but I didn't jump of four dishes Dole is important in our state but I didn't see my date for what it was the word rape in neck are that should have to crucify myself with memories of the night before and so much a conscious refusal he was more like an acknowledgment of reality was forbidden by definition my actions completely refuted any recognition of the menstrual Marcos took this to be honest I repudiated the entire act in the days off to its committee this a doubt the truth by convincing myself it was sex and not write some artists can really talk much after that especially about that night at that point they were living at opposite ends of the world with Tom back in Australia and thirty s in Iceland nine years after the Christmas dance I was twenty five years old then headed straight for a nervous breakdown my self worth was buried under a soul crushing load of silence that isolated me from everyone that I cared about and I was consumed with misplaced hatred and anger that I took out on myself one day I stormed out of the door in tears after fight with the loved one and I wandered into a cafe or ask the waitress for a pen I always had a notebook with me claiming that it was to jot down ideas and moments of inspiration but the truth was that I needed to be constantly fidgeting because in moments of stillness I found myself counting seconds again but that day I watched in wonder as the word streamed out of my pen forming the most pivotal letter I've ever written I just to town along with an account of the violence that he subjected me to the words I want to find forgiveness stared back at me surprising nobody more than myself but deep down I realized that this was my way out of my suffering because regardless of whether or not he deserve my forgiveness I deserved the It was a detailed accounts of that night was a chronology of what had happened and what he had subjected me to it was also description of the consequences it had on my life since then and then it concluded in this wish of mine to find some sort of release from us I didn't want to be a prisoner of my passing the longer I wanted to make him aware of her team cost the the the the the new fresh red tortoise the twenty three ERA at those memories triggered in and was a horror at learning what I did the learning to the learning was reliving that night in a way that I'd refuse to do up until that point through an unconscious denial simply refusing to re visit that night and to see my act is right and it felt like God to push it away would cause more pain so I replied shortly thereafter and now switched to from here and you immediately acknowledged and called it what it was mean you understood that what you had done was rape or sexual violence I should state that I sunk this black box for a long time I did not want to face up to it and enter in the fact that my soul from Will race background with a self perception as a decent guy was capable of this sign yet that was the beginning of trying to con Banda but then it took me a long time for me to understand the ramifications in the depths of the pain caused this and why do you think that you were seeking forgiveness who knew him you wrote those words in that letter you want to find forgiveness why did you think that you want to try to forgive somebody who did that to you in my mind forgiveness is absolutely not about laying your blessing over the hurt that was cost on the contrary forgiveness underlines the hurt that was caused but that you yourself don't want to be weighed down by it anymore I didn't want to have this dictate my life i din wanna have it taped to my self image anymore or my future chances at happiness or inner peace so for me forgiveness is not something sacrificial that you give to someone else it's very much an act of self interest and an act of self empowerment and first and foremost release the release from negative emotions that in my case were very emotionally taxing and we're taking a toll on all of my relationships and also well being but I also want to make it clear that I do understand people that find other emotions empowering such as anger for some people lingering anger is a place where they feel empowered now so this is very much Sam person all individual kind of connection that people have with these concepts whether it's forgiveness or anger or reconciliation or were driven to any of these are highly personal concepts the During the correspondence Tom wrote to thirty s that he thought he should be punished by that time the statue of limitations for this crime had passed in Iceland because in nineteen ninety six having non consensual sex with someone who is unable to fight back was even classified as rape he was classified as a form of sexual misconduct for like Dani Reiss way amongst a lot of wrong was for me to do time in jail you know ANY me speaking to this I certainly don't want to sanitize the acts I don't want to even be seen as rewarding anyway for simply admitting publicly to what I did it's a case of I I can play the belief that taking responsibility for her of course should be a natural course of action the after reading back and forth with Tom for years or anyway with her own life by getting married and child thirty s still felt something more I had stated things I wanted to state and thus the questions I wanted to ask and I still didn't feel entirely fulfilled and a sense the writing format is after all the silence an idea the face to face with time the halfway between Iceland and Australia oh and we decide upon the city of Cape Town and then we met for one week the city itself proved to be a stunningly powerful environment to focus on reconciliation and forgiveness Norris is healing approach meant being tested like it has in South Africa as a nation so loving so to sit within the truth of its cost and to listen to the details of its history knowing if any magnified the effect that Kate at how dogs over the course of this week we literally spoke a lot of stories to each other from start to finish new sod time in Cape Town what you do to shake his hand if you can't you just sort of a distance and say hello at you respond when the time well the whole idea was of course are written with doubts I mean I have multiple doubts along nobody's footsteps to follow and this has them in very many a scary but I felt so also a necessary step for me to take and when I say scary I don't mean in the sense that I was afraid of Tom I would never have undertaken this journey if I would have thought that it posed a risk to my physical safety but it was scary to face up to some of the pain of the pasts and today to try and set myself free from it and thinking that it might not work it might not be successful in the way that I am hoping but when I did see Tom that again was another another leg I guess overwhelming moment in my life was basically sixteen years of history just coming rushing back to me and I'm the first thing that actually ended up happening after we greeted each other ways some that we we walked down that street and where the hotel was located and just moving just not standing with sixteen years' worth of history weighing down on my shoulders was relief but also I guess symbolic for wanting to move forward with my life within moments during that week in Cape Town where you see you thought maybe this is a mistake yes there are such times there were times where he simply felt like we were speaking in different languages and we're unable to see each other's points and at such times I did have moments where I thought What the hell am I doing this has been one crazy failed mission and I just wanna get on the next plane home to my husband and son but we mash
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