Friday, December 11, 2009

Justice and Peace

Ever since the bankruptcy of Imagine, ideas and suggestions have been floating around amongst affected families about whether or not to pursue a civil law suit against the agency's former Executive Director and her husband.  A criminal investigation is actively underway but no one knows how long that will take or what the result will be; the civil suit would obviously be something separate and apart from any criminal proceeding.

All of this has me thinking about what I want out of this process, if anything.  We have been wronged, that much is clear - financially, emotionally, etc.  Though it now appears that our adoption will proceed (it feels incredible to write that!), there is still no guarantee of that outcome, and for a long time after the bankruptcy was announced, it seemed like our adoption was an impossibility.  So what do I want?  Do I want financial restitution, assuming that I could get it?  Do I want some type of revenge?  Justice?  What do I want from the people formerly in positions of oversight of Imagine?  What do I want from the legal system?  What do I need to do to put this situation to rest in my own heart and head?  These are the questions I've been asking myself.  I think I have an answer.

From an early age, I have had a fairly strong sense of justice.  I believe in right and addition to the existence of gray areas.  I used to be an excellent debater and I can still mount a pretty good argument when I put forth an effort (ask my husband or parents or siblings!).  I have always had a heart for righting wrongs, have jumped quickly to the defence of someone whom I believe to have been unjustly treated, etc etc.  A chunk of my post secondary education also oriented me in this direction - I completed law school and, after articling, was called to the Manitoba bar in the early 90s.  Even now, a couple of careers later, my mediation practice is premised on a foundational principal of justice and the concept of somehow equalizing or balancing power in relationships to work towards a negotiated resolution.

It was not a surprise to me, then, that for the first four or five days following the bankruptcy, the strength of my devastation/loss/grief was accompanied by equally powerful feelings of anger and bitterness and a desire for justice and restitution.  I felt helplessly furious: at the situation; at Sue and Rick Hayhow; at the (former) board of directors...anyone I thought might be involved.  I was pretty angry at the world.

But something happened to me pretty early on, soon after those initial few days, and long before I felt that there might be some hope left in our adoption process.  In the midst of my despair, I decided that I needed to let the anger go, so that it wouldn't eat me up.  I've known people who have let anger ruin their lives, who have let bitterness become the governing force driving their attitudes, actions, decisions.  In the midst of my own anger, righteous though it was, I knew that I didn't want that to happen to me.  And so I decided (as did Geoff) to forgive the people responsible for their wrongdoings.  I forgive Sue and Rick Hayhow and anyone else involved in the events leading up to the July 13th bankruptcy; I forgive them for doing what they did; I forgive them for causing me such intense pain that I still can't go back to the dark days following July 13th; I forgive them for the possibility that I might never complete my adoption process (even though it now appears much more likely).

The fruit of forgiveness in my life was the disappearance of my anger; I felt almost immediately free of the burden of it.  Even more profoundly for me, I noticed that I even began to feel a certain level of compassion for the two Hayhows and others involved in the whole mess. My thoughts turned more towards wondering how they would cope with this change in their lives.  Surely, despite the defensiveness they must be feeling in anticipation of the coming legal wrangling, they knew in their hearts that they did wrong? If, on the other hand, they were so deceived as to convince themselves of faultlessness in the situation, then I would feel pity for them.

From personal experience, I know that it is hard to take responsibility for the wrongs I commit, for the hurt that I (intentionally...or unintentionally) cause another person.  I have done things that have caused other people harm and I have struggled to 'come to terms' with my own responsibility for the impact I've caused.  It is all too easy to justify or defend my actions with very good and clear reasons, or expressions of positive intent.  It is much more difficult to grapple with how I impact other people; and, in some cases, to deal with the stuff in my life that is not as honourable as I'd like to think or present myself as being.

Here's the other side of the same coin.  There have been a few times in my life when I have been forgiven by someone whom I have hurt badly... times when I truly did not deserve forgiveness.  And yet...I was forgiven.  That blows me away!  That, in my experience, is the very definition, the very essence of grace.  There has been nothing in my life that has been so humbling as when I have received unmerited grace in the form of being forgiven by someone I have hurt deeply.  I have come to believe that one really has to screw up big time once or twice before one can really appreciate what it's like to receive the grace of forgiveness; it's related to my belief that we never truly learn anything unless we have walked through a painful experience.  As a Christian, I have experienced that truth in my walk with God; as a person interacting in a world where I sometimes hurt other people deeply, I have profoundly experienced the power of forgiveness in a way that sometimes feels more real than my experience as a Christian...perhaps because when I hurt someone here on earth, my mortal brain/heart can see the impact directly as it is experienced by the other person.

So...where does that entire history of being leave me in connection with Imagine and the folks involved in the harm caused to me and my family...

I choose not to seek revenge; I also choose not to seek the justice that they likely deserve.  It's not even as hard to think or write that as it would have been a couple of months ago.  In fact, I wish that I could say this to them directly; maybe someday I will have that opportunity.  But for now, it is enough to know it, believe it, decide it.  Not having even spoken to Geoff about the lawsuit, my choice will be to forgo involvement.  I don't want this to consume me, to pre-occupy me any more than it already has.  Whether or not they ever take responsibility for the things they have done to contribute to the situation, I hope that they are able to experience the gift of grace in their lives and to move on.

I recognize that this perspective will not work for every family involved with Imagine.  Some families  are still very angry, and I really get that they will need to act in accordance with their concept of justice in order to be able to move forward.  Other families will find it reasonable to both forgive and pursue legal action against the parties involved; I get that, too.  I have no issue with families who choose differently than me and would go further to say that I think I understand why not everyone will feel the same as me.  If a lawsuit proceeds at some point, I will wish those families well.

But for me, I feel at peace about my resolution...I am movin' on.


  1. Well said. Thanks for articulating this perspective so nicely.

  2. Hey there Ruth, this is Hilary, Sheldon's wife. I have been following your blog for a while now. What you had to say today was very moving to me! I had a little cry as I read today's post. I have been struggling with this issue, especially, this last week. I'm a youth leader at my church, and our Bible study last Friday was all about forgiveness. I have been trying to forgive. And for me, I think I need to wake up every morning, and during my devotions and prayer time, I really need to pray for them. Over the last week I have changed my thinking about them. God works in strange ways sometimes! I have learned a lot about myself and how reliant on God I really need to be! Sheldon and I have kept our church, family, and friends updated along our long 7 year journey, to become parents. We know that there are so many, many people praying for, not only us, but all of us who were affected. In these last few months God has given me a peace that I don't understand! I know we will be parents at some point and that it will be in His timing. Freaking out doesn't make the time move faster. I'm really enjoying my time now! At some point I may look back and wish I had the freedom I do now. Imagine! And if this didn't all happen now, we would only be getting one child and not two!
    So anyway, sorry for talking you ear off. I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for writing what you did today!!! -Hilary

  3. Just wanted to say thank you both for your comments and to thank you for reading my blog.

    Hilary, I'm also glad that something I wrote was somehow meaningful to you. Forgiveness is such a big thing to get to and, in my experience, cannot be rushed. But once attained, wow, it feels so much better. I think praying for them is such a great idea - I've done this, too, and it frees me somehow to think about THEIR experience in this mess and how God might prompt them to live life differently, too. Many blessing, Hilary!


  4. HI, just found you on here off of the yahoo group. :) YOu articulate so perfectly what has been in my heart, almost from the beginning. I truly felt sorry for Rick and Sue (and whoever else ends up being responsible)..what a sad life they lead, when money is everything. You're so so right-we have been forgiven so much-how then could we not forgive?
    I know that the resolution of things, the fact that Imagine truly has risen from the ashes to operate again and keep our families heading into adoption is due to a lot of passionate, articulate, incredible people..I also know that our God is a miracle worker, and He has smoothed out the way-Praising Him!
    Have a great weekend! Hope to read-soon-great news.
    (ps. I read further down you are hs'ing..we do as well..hope you have some support around. :)

  5. HI Darci, and welcome to the blog - glad you found it and I hope you enjoy it!!

    I thought you articulated much more succinctly than I did my feelings towards the Hayhows - that they must live such a sad life, etc. Thanks.

    Re: homeschooling - we've been at it for just a few months but we're starting to get into the groove and starting to like it. And we're building our supports. I'd love to hear more about your efforts, etc - if you have a blog, let me know!



  6. Ruth,
    This is an excellent post. I feel very much the same as you. At the time of the bankruptcy our Bible study group was studying Revelation. When it talked about God finally showing vengeance on those who had wronged his people, it was very meaningful to me. The Bible teaches again and again that vengeance is not for us. It is for God. It is very freeing to me to know that I can forgive, and not worry anymore who did what to us. If God feels that vengeance is needed he will take care of it in His time. All we are asked to do is trust in him and follow his example of love and forgiveness, which is not always easy. But to me it is much easier than carrying around a heart full of anger. That is very heavy indeed!
    So thanks for this post. Have a great weekend!

  7. hi ruth,
    i'm at

    it's private but you're welcome :) just send me your email address for an invite. darci :)

  8. As incredible as it seems now, Sue is a Christian. I saw her on 100 Huntley Street, ages ago, discussing faith and adoption in a way that led me to believe she was a true, born again Christian.

    It took a while for me to have peace about this, but I do believe that for me personally - as a Christian - I must release forgiveness to Sue as God has forgiven me. Although she has hurt me deeply, she's still a part of the same Body I'm part of. (ie/ the worldwide body of Christ.) It's my responsibility to react to her sin the way God reacts to mine: with forgiveness, grace and a love that will cover any multitude of sins.

    Anyway... that sounds very holy, but it's not easy, that's for sure! :) Still... one day at a time. I pray, like you, that those responsible will experience the grace that I have experienced. And I also pray that God will move their hearts to make restitution to the children and families they have wronged. With God, nothing is impossible! :)

  9. Thanks for this post! We're adopting as well, but we're not with Imagine. It broke my heart when I heard about the bankruptcy, and wondered how families were going to deal with such heartbreak.

    I'm happy to hear of you and other families that have found the ability to forgive when you've been so wronged.