Choosing to Forgive
Professor Darold Bigger Transforms Trauma Into Teaching
By: Camlynne Waring
Forgiving is not a strength of the human condition. It seems easy to hold on to a grudge and difficult to release anger. A new course at Walla Walla University uses the Bible, Christian books, and academic texts to explore the “benefits of forgiving, the hazards of not forgiving, and practical suggestions for making forgiveness work,” according to course professor Darold Bigger.
“Forgiveness brightens our general attitude toward life,” says Bigger, professor of theology. “It reduces stress and gives us optimism, increases physical well-being and emotional health, strengthens our connections with other human beings, and lets us experience and share the essence of a Christian life—to love and be loved!”
Bigger’s interest in the topic of forgiveness stemmed from his experience after a family tragedy.
On June 16, 1996, Bigger and his wife, Barbara, learned that their 25-year-old daughter, Shannon, had been murdered in her Takoma Park, Md., apartment. Police found and arrested her murderer within 40 hours of the crime. He was sentenced to consecutive sentences of 20 years, life in prison, and life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Though Bigger struggled with rage for weeks, he was able to let go of his anger once he realized that in God’s eyes, he was as guilty of sin as his daughter’s murderer, yet Christ had died for both of them.
While he knows that the journey to forgiveness is different for everyone, Bigger says he has a passion for the issue because of how profoundly it changed him.
Many students sign up for the class with the hope of learning to forgive people in their lives, as well as how to work toward reconciliation. Although most of the students have an Adventist background, the class also attracts people of other denominations and faiths.
“All of us face forgiveness opportunities in our personal lives,” says Bigger. “Implementing forgiveness allows us to experience God’s forgiveness of us and that boosts our sense of worth.”
Published March 27, 2013