It’s been over just a year since the release of our second documentary film, The Forgiveness Journey. The 73-minute film was an emotional and challenging endeavor for myself and for the people that we spoke to. Over about a eighteen month production schedule, my wife and I interviewed doctors, psychologists, religious leaders and everyday people about the process of forgiveness. Questions were brought to the table: How do we forgive? Are all wrong doings forgivable? What happens to us emotionally when we are able to forgive ourselves? I feel that The Forgiveness Journey, though low-budget (budget was only about $1,000) and filmed with a very small crew, was able to answer these questions, help others think about their own situations, and open up conversions about sensitive subjects, including my own story which I will talk about briefly in this blog post.
Since we released the film in Salt Lake City, Utah in February of 2014, there has been mixed reactions to some of the points we raised in the film. Some people have expressed that forgiving is conditional and depends on the offense and/or wrongdoing, while others feel that there are no conditions to forgiveness and that all people should be forgiven no matter what. Personally, I stand somewhere in the middle. Forgiveness is very complicated. Without understanding the entire story, it’s difficult to understand the dynamics that are at play. One point we brought up in the film is that forgiveness is for you, not the other person. Most people agree with this point.
Marina Cantacuzino, the founder of the U.K. based, The Forgiveness Project, appeared in my film discussing how forgiveness works between two people, her organization in London, and the misconceptions of forgiveness. She was quoted in the film saying, “There are those who see forgiveness as an immensely noble and humbling response to atrocity – and then there are those who simply laugh it out of court.”
During the Parliament of Worlds Religions in Salt Lake City in 2015, The Forgiveness Project displayed their “F Word Exhibit“, which tells stories of people whose lives have been shattered by violence, tragedy and injustice and who are learning to forgive, reconcile and move on. I learned a lot from Marina about forgiveness which I’ve applied in my own situation with my daughter, Maddie. Thankfully, Maddie and I have finally developed email contact, but no plans yet of actually talking or seeing each other. I need to be patient.
Marina’s new book, The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, brings together the personal testimonies of both survivors and perpetrators of crime and violence and asks the question whether forgiveness may have more currency than revenge in an age which seems locked into the cycle of conflict.
One man that I will never forget is Arnold Thomas. I met with him over a course of a couple of months in fall, 2014. Arnold is a suicide survivor and lives blind because of his attempt. I’ve spoken to Arnold a few times over the last couple of years and I understand he is doing very well with his journey of self forgiveness. Arnold is a successful blind owner and Chief Executive Officer of White Buffalo Knife Corporation located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Presently, he serves on a National Veterans Health Administration/Indian Health Service work group. Additionally, Arnold has been involved in developing curriculum for suicide prevention and intervention programs on the local and national levels.
Unfortunately, I’ve lost contact with some of our film’s subjects including Vicky Thomas, who struggled with childhood abuse, forgiving her mother and step-father, and working through personal traumas. At the time of our interview in 2013 near Portland, Oregon, she was the editor for New Connexion, a journal of conscious living and working through the forgiveness process. Her interview with me was emotional, honest and raw. She talked about the emotional and sexual abuse she endured as a child, the religious cult that her mother forced her to go to as a teen in southern California, and what she is doing to come to terms and to reconcile with family members. I just learned today that she is doing well according to the new CEO of New Connexion. “She is no longer the editor and has taken time off before her next professional adventure‘, he states. I’m excited to find out what she has in store for her new career.
Dr. Forrest Crawford, a professor at Weber State University, commented professionally on forgiveness in the film. I met Forrest for the first time during our interview during an award ceremony he was being honored at in Ogden, Utah. He had mentioned during our interview, “The process of forgiveness means that I have to be grounded and motivated to serve others.” I love this statement. Since the film’s interview, Forrest was one of our guest speakers at the film’s release at the Broadway Theater. We’ve also collaborated on public speaking opportunities including presenting at the 2015 John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, and a Weber State University “Forgiveness Panel.” In addition, Forrest is a co-founder of several organizations including the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission and the Utah Black Education Forum. He is currently serving on the Utah’s ACLU Board of Directors. I learned a lot from Forrest about forgiveness since meeting in early 2015. He is great friend and colleague.
It’s wonderful to know how many great people my wife and I met during the production of The Forgiveness Journey and the support from the local community during the film’s official release in Salt Lake City. One of the reasons why I decided to make a film on forgiveness was to better understand my situation with my daughter and to help others through their forgiveness journey. In the film I worked with writer and life coach, Kimberly Giles at Clarity Point Coaching. I will always be grateful for her time, patience and knowledge on the topic of forgiveness and second chances. Lilli Martin from Signs of Forgiveness also took me on a journey in the film throughout the Salt Lake City community. I joined her as she spread the word and symbol of forgiveness. Her updated website states: “The symbol is fresh ~ not steeped in any dogma except the incontrovertibly of Forgiveness to freshen our planet and your world.” One year later, Lilli is still involved in the forgiveness movement and is going great. I’m still thankful today for her ability to forgive me for my mistakes.
I hope over the last year viewers have been able to take away something from the film that will help them with their journey. Forgiveness is not easy. We must be patient with ourselves and others during the process.
If you haven’t yet watched the film, you can see it FREE on YouTube. I would love to hear your comments.
— Matt Duhamel, Metamora Films