The Lion by the Ant Was Slain
Richard I was one of the most beloved English monarchs ever. Nicknamed Lionheart, his status as a respected leader and brave military general earned him numerous accolades during his brief lifetime. Over 820 years after his death, he is still considered an icon in British and French history.
The 41-year-old King was still considered quite young, even for his day. Upon a visit to the region of Limousin, France, King Richard was observing the castle grounds of Chalus-Chabrol, strolling proudly, back and forth, in its courtyard. Upon gazing up towards one of the towers, he observed a young man practicing his crossbow skills – to which Richard encouraged with a cheer of support.
The King was without his chainmail that evening and his headpiece was the sole item of protection on his person. After applauding the young man once again, the King was suddenly struck in the shoulder by an arrow he was too slow to dodge. The assailant then ran away in a haste, leaving the fallen King where he lay.
Richard’s wound worsened over the next few days. It had turned gangrene and the infection was dispersing throughout his body – despite all efforts to save him. Richard, on his deathbed, summoned the young man to his chamber for a meeting.
The Medieval period was particularly brutal when it came to punishments. There was no shortage of violent, painful, and humiliating fates that criminals were condemned to – and, think about this, this young man had just killed the fucking King of England – God only knows what plight awaited the killer.
However, Richard forgave him. The dying King pardoned the young man, gave him the princely sum of 100 shillings, and sent him on his way. He told his killer ‘‘Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day”’. Unwilling to die vengeful and vindictive, Richard’s random act of kindness, conducted just before he slipped away into death, cemented his status as a true Lionheart. When the public remembers Richard I, the first thing that comes to mind is his unexpected and seemingly unjustified act of a much-unappreciated art – forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness, Anyway, and Why Does it Matter?
Forgiveness is the act of letting go of internal conflict, anger, resentment, or disappointment towards either an individual or a group of people. It is the release of negative emotions within the body, a catharsis from all the toxic emotions that have silently brewed in the mind of the forgiver. Actual forgiveness – real forgiveness – is when the act is voluntary, and not darkly obligatory.
Mark Manson, in his stellar blog, covered the case of Balbir Singh Sodhi – a Sikh man who was gunned down in broad daylight by Frank Roques, who ”wanted to shoot some towelheads” as revenge for the September 11 attacks. When Roques was arrested and sentenced to death, Sodhi’s brother, Rana stood up in court and openly declared that his family had forgiven him, and that his execution would rob Roques of the chance to become a better person and develop remorse for his crime.
The jury, stunned by Rana Sodhi’s compassion, downgraded Roques to a life sentence instead. After some soul-searching, Roques apologised for the murder of Balbir Sodhi. Rana visited Roques in prison, where the two shared a tearful embrace. I would recommend reading Manson’s original piece, as the story is deeply emotional, inspirational, and the Sodhi family are a stellar exemplar of everything that is good in the world. There would be another tragedy in the family the following year when the third Sodhi brother, Sukhpal, was accidentally gunned down in San Francisco after being caught in the crossfire of a gang fight. When asked about the two tragedies, Sukhpal Sodhi’s son Sukhwinder declared, “What are you going to do with anger? We like peace and we are a peaceful people.”
I think the Sodhi family put a lot of our problems and issues into perspective. They also teach us about the pointlessness of anger – and how it merely adds to already existing feelings of grief. That does not mean Roques deserves anything. It means that the Sodhi family can make the first step at moving on without being restrained by resentment.
Scientists know that forgiveness does wonders for the body. It has been shown to increase mental health, improve marriages, and even help people live longer. The book Forgiveness: Theory, Research, and Practice (McCullough et. al) describes the benefits of not only forgiveness but also the repentance of an aggressor – ”when taken together, repentance and forgiveness form a cornerstone for the healing of emotional and relational wounds after transgression”. Without these two forces, both parties will both be emotionally worse off the long run – holding on to negative emotions wreaks havoc with not only the mind but the physical body also.
Forgiveness is letting go of the past and moving into the present. It is not the same as a dismissal – forgiveness is necessary but the importance of boundaries is also key. Boundaries form a force field around oneself that protects the individual from future wrongdoings. Boundaries allow you to live life in peace, knowing that you won’t get fooled again. Whilst forgiveness may be key for own life, boundaries are the mark that protect your new-found clarity.
To sum up, forgiveness is done by you, and for you.
What Happened to the Kid who Killed Richard I?
Well, he was caught, skinned alive, and hanged by one of Richard’s mercenaries immediately after the King’s death. Whoops. But King Richard’s heart was in the right place.
Moral of that story – sometimes you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.