Erik decided against vengeance and chose to extend forgiveness instead.
We often hear about the importance of forgiving and forgetting. This is a lesson that this widower was forced into learning back in 2006.
20-year-old EMT/firefighter Matt Swatzell had just worked a 24-hour shift. This Georgia man was as tired as could be but he still felt as if he could make it home safely. Unfortunately, he was not able to drive.
According to Today, he sadly began to fall asleep a couple of miles from his home. He drifted into traffic and struck another vehicle. The car was driven by 30-year-old mother and wife Judy Fitzgerald. She was pregnant with her second child at the time. She was killed and the unborn child was never given the chance to take their first breath. 19-month-old Faith somehow escaped with mild injuries.
Pastor Erik Fitzgerald was left to make sense of this horrific tragedy. “Hearing the news, just trying to process it, not only did I lose my wife and best friend, I lost my son,” he said at the time, according to Today. This is the type of loss that is hard to fathom. We cannot begin to imagine the level of rage that he had and what he might have said to Matt if he was given the chance.
As the case made its way through the court system, Erik was unable to speak with Matt. That was probably for the best. Matt spent years dealing with the immense guilt that he felt. One day, he decided to purchase a condolence card at the grocery store. As he was walking back to his vehicle, he saw none other than Erik walking in his direction.
“He was just bawling,” Erik says. “So I just walked up and I just hugged him. What do you say? Sometimes things are best said with no words.” There are a lot of people who would not have cared about his sadness. After all, so much was taken from him as a result of this young man’s careless choice. Erik chose forgiveness, though.
In these instances, extending the olive branch is the best choice. You have to do it for yourself, just as much as you have to do it for the other person. Erik decided against exacting vengeance against him and he will be much better off for it over the long haul.
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