Angles on Forgiveness

For reasons that do not matter for the purposes of what I’m writing here, I questioned whether I have ever been really depressed. Or even truly anxiety ridden. Or adequately denied forgiveness. And I questioned, and still do, whether I can ever truly forgive, or be forgiven. I now think the answer to the first two questions is that I have. Both. But my experiences with those emotions probably cannot begin to compare with the painful, ongoing episodes that Jaskirat Sidhu must have experienced and must be feeling to this day. These thoughts came to mind yesterday after I read an article in Maclean’s, the Canadian current affairs magazine, about Jaskirat Sidhu’s experiences. The article, entitled Forgiving Jasirat Sidhu, addresses what it describes as “one of humanity’s most vexing questions,” forgiveness. Sihu was sentenced to eight years in a Canadian prison after sailing through a stop sign and plowing into a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos’ hockey team. The team was heading to a junior hockey playout game. Sixteen people died in the April 6, 2018 crash and thirteen were seriously injured. Sihu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving. He accepted his guilt and never attempted a plea bargain to minimize his punishment as his case went through the Canadian justice system. However, because he is not a Canadian citizen (but was on a permanent work visa), after he served his sentence the Canadian Border Service’s recommendation as to whether he should be deported back to India will be evaluated.

Several of the families who lost members in the crash have taken the position that they can never forgive Sidhu for his role in their never-ending grief. Others have embraced forgiveness as the only way they can overcome the pain of their loss. And whether the Canadian justice system can incorporate forgiveness into a scheme ostensibly designed to punish and rehabilitate has yet to be determined in Sidhu’s case. Reading about the interactions between Sidhu and families of the victims, I see a very good young man who is suffering badly for a serious accident. “My mom and my dad always taught me if you have done something wrong, go accept it. If you have not done something wrong, stand up for yourself,” Sidhu said. “Those are my values, and that’s what I was doing.”

He feels deep remorse for what happened and he understands the families who cannot find their way toward forgiving him. Sidhu understands why some people cannot forgive him.  “I cannot calculate the anger they have inside them. I can’t judge it. They have every reason to not forgive me.” He finds it difficult to understand how those who do forgive him can find it possible to do so. And I, too, understand the unforgiving position taken by many family members. Sidhu’s actions caused the death of their family members. His sentence, whether followed by deportation or not, is nothing compared to their sentence of a lifetime without their loved ones. And those who have not found it possible to forgive must deal with others’ judgments of them: as bitter people unable or unwilling to forgive a good person for an unintentional bad deed.

The almost unimaginable guilt that resides inside Jaskirat Sidhu must trigger a sense of depression and/or anxiety that is just as bad. My anxiety and depression probably does not equal his. My loss of my wife was not instantaneous; it was not an utterly random act that could have been prevented. Still, depression can cause irrationality. I cannot yet forgive the universe for what it did to her and to me. I know that is the embodiment of insanity, but it’s still there, regardless. And I cannot forgive myself for failing to be a better person during my lifetime with my late wife. I am trying to be better now, with a new love in my life. But even that effort is riddled with guilt; why did I not make the same effort before? Forgiveness for that failure is out of the question, it seems.


One cannot live in a state of constant remorse. It has to be left to decay in a corner, at some point. But does it every truly wither into dust? Does regret and guilt ever morph into something deserving of forgiveness? It’s hard to say. I hope so. But even hoping for a reduction in the pain of regret seems to clamor for more guilt, making forgiveness seem even less likely and its lack more deserved. Another of life’s awful but appropriate Catch-22 experiences.


Perhaps today’s excursion north and west will cure the emotional ills I’m feeling at the moment. Maybe this dip in my mood was caused entirely by reading an excellent emotional but thought-provoking article. Whatever triggered it, here’s hoping it will subside soon; early enough to enjoy a nice fall day on the open road.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Angles on Forgiveness

  1. John says:

    David, thank you for putting my experience into perspective. Your therapist’s comparison is as instructional and meaningful as any I have ever encountered. I appreciate and am grateful to you for sharing it.

  2. davidlegan says:

    Pertaining to your own feelings, and not to the “forgiveness” part of your blog, I have to share with you some of the wisest council I have ever obtained. I told a therapist that I had NO right to complain. I was well off, had no financial worries, I was healthy, free, living in the USA, etc. All was good, so why was I depressed and anxious? I had it SO much better than most folks. And she said:
    “If I throw boiling water on your arm, it will scald you. It will hurt, badly. It does not matter if, at that moment – simultaneously- in some other state there is a family engulfed in a house fire that will kill them all. Their pain is far greater than yours, and that is irrelevant. Your pain is not related to or comparable to the pain of others. It is yours, alone.”

    How’s that for hitting the mark?

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