John Paul II's meeting with his would-be assassin

I’m wondering if anyone out there ever reached out to someone who had hurt you, without any promptings on their part for forgiveness over the way they hurt you. And if so, how did it go? Was it the right thing to do or did it backfire on you? (Get thrown in your face or have no impact on making peace)

I'm strongly considering reaching out (in kindness) to someone who hurt me in my past.  Of course its nothing as bad as someone wanting to kill me such as in Pope John Paul II's case, but I think the example is a good one that I'd like to follow..  Until now I had feared coming into contact with this person, but for some reason lately,  I've been feeling prompted to reach out.   I also, despite the wrong doing,  am concerned for this person's well being.  I think it could help as I've since dealt with the hurt and forgiven this person.     I've read other stories of this sort of thing where there was total reconciliation-  one in which the two became good friends.  I would believe this is God's example.  I'd like to give it a try but I find myself being afraid of being re-victimized or taken advantage of again... or worse.    

So I’m wondering if anyone out there ever did anything as tough as that and how did it go?

Oh no, …anyone?

Well, I’ll take a stab at this.

How did it go? Not well, initially. To my surprise, the other person (whom I will call “Terry”) blamed me 100% for the incident. I persevered, but was abused again and again.

Was it the right thing to do or did it backfire on you? Both.

Despite the hostility, I didn’t give up. I can’t really say why. Perhaps I needed to learn something in this difficulty.

At the time of the offense, Terry was only an acquaintance. Over the course of the next couple of years, I learned much about Terry that went a long way towards explaining (though not excusing) Terry’s behavior towards me.

What strikes me the most as I think back on the whole thing is how my fear of Terry’s reactions to my peace-making efforts diminished over time. It’s very hard to explain why without going into detail about what happened, and I’m not going to do that :slight_smile: I do consider it to be a good thing, though. I think it has made me a more patient, charitable person. It has also shown me the importance of forgiving people who hurt me even if they refuse to admit they did.

In the end, Terry never admitted any responsibility, never apologized, never accepted my forgiveness (seeing how there was nothing for me to forgive, according to Terry) and never forgave me for my own reaction at the time. A couple of years went by and we just moved on. We still see each other frequently and today consider ourselves close friends. So we have made a peace of sorts, and I’m thankful for that. Terry’s behavior towards me is no longer abusive, and Terry is also kinder and more patient with others. I can’t say how much of that is due to the aftermath of our conflict, but I find it hard to believe that what transpired between Terry and me had no role at all in these changes.

I fear this may not be the least bit helpful to you. :o Still, I do not think it’s ever wrong to reach out to another, particularly if the incident that put the two of you in conflict is ancient history and you’ve since processed it and forgiven the other party. It may end well. However, if you elect to make this gesture you must accept the possibility that it won’t.

God bless.

Yes, this was incredibly helpful. Thank you!

What would people have made of John Paul II’s attempts at reconciliation with his attacker if the attacker was not as cordial? Bit back? Spat in his face? Would we think differently about the Pope’s attempt? Would we think differently about the Pope? Would it have been kept a secret from us if it didn’t’ go as well as it did… If the attempt was unsuccessful at reconciliation? *What should we think on it if it was not? * I’m not sure any attempt at doing God’s will that doesn’t come out ‘successful’ is actually not successful. As you said here, I’m pretty sure that it helps somewhat, somehow.

The incident was a long time ago (few years) . This person is an acquaintance. My window to act is closing and all this time I’ve felt prompted but not acted.

What I mean by this is that wouldn’t people say “stupid pope, he should have had armed body guards, or he was such a wimp to let down his guard and forgive that person” Or “he was stupid to attempt this”. Or “he got what he had coming to him”. I could hear those accusations now.

They are Know-It-Alls, who know nothing. Friendship and reconciliation are the best way to go, EVERY TIME. :console:

In short, so what? :slight_smile: Since forgiveness in charity is always the right thing to do, what would it matter if anyone said or thought these things?

People generally place a great deal of emphasis on what others think, so it’s often difficult to choose a course of action that leaves us open to be mocked, criticized, derided, ridiculed—even if that course of action is objectively the best approach to take. What St. John Paul II attempted was not without these risks. There was no guarantee of a positive outcome, and no guarantee he wouldn’t be criticized no matter what the outcome, yet he went ahead with it anyway knowing it was the right thing to do. If he was not concerned with what others might think of his reaching out to the man who attempted to kill him, we should not be either.

I guess I’m not sure if charity and forgiveness is always the right way to go. In Scripture, there seems to be stipulations and times when we should and times when we should not.

  I listen to what other folks say because we must look at and judge our own thoughts and reasoning using both Word of God, Church teaching, our own experiences, and those of others, laws, etc.   We can be wrong about things.   Its a responsibility to try and understand what we believe and why and strive to find the best way to go about our lives and also strive for truth.  Strive to do what we believe God is calling us to do... but we can be mistaken, right?

 I don't think there was anything wrong with what JPII did with Agca, in fact I remember when it happened and I felt very joyful about it.  I just wonder if it wasn't "successful" (meaning, there was no reconciliation) , would the people celebrate it?   And if if wasn't 'successful', was it a failure?  Would it only be a failure in the world's eyes, or would it be a failure also in God's?  

There are times when people do foolish things that they think God was asking them to do it but God did not ask them to do it. They might have even lost their lives for it… does God still reward it? Even if its seemingly a success… does God reward that? (Or is it as it is said in Scripture of those who will get their reward now)

Is there a way to try and decipher if what you are doing ***is ***foolish or if its really following God and just seems foolish?    Sometimes following God seems like you just made a fool of yourself.   How do you know if you really did make a fool out of yourself or if you did something for God?  

In other words… I don’t really want to do this idea, this reaching out to someone who hurt me **if **it means I’m just going to make a fool out of myself. Perhaps this means I’m not ready? Or maybe its just my pride? Or maybe I really don’t have to do it at all. ? In all honesty, I don’t have to… I want to because I care about the other person (fear for this person’s soul) , and because its been bothering me (because I think what I do could bring healing to this other person). I don’t’ want to do it because I can get really hurt (not just emotionally hurt). My window of opportunity is running out fast.

You ask good, complex questions :slight_smile: and I appreciate how frustrating your situation is. Know that I don’t make the following comments nonchalantly.

The possibility that our actions will result in ridicule, mockery, criticism, derision, etc. is a poor gauge for deciding whether or not to do them. For example, many, many people have been treated as fools for defending their faith, but this doesn’t mean they should not do so.

While discerning the will of God is good and necessary, most people do not receive clear directions from Him for every decision they need to make. Sometimes, when the guidance we pray for is not forthcoming, God is actually trusting us to use the intelligence and reason He gave us to figure out how to proceed. In Searching for and Maintaining Peace, Fr. Jacques Philippe elaborates eloquently on this topic. See Chapter 16, “Unrest When We Have Decisions to Make.”

Your hesitation may indeed mean you aren’t ready. I’m in the same position with another scenario in my life, one far more damaging than the Terry situation described in an earlier response. I’ve forgiven the person, but I’m just not ready to let her back into my life yet and I don’t know that I ever will be. This, however, is my problem. It’s certainly not an indication that God doesn’t want me to reach out to her, since doing that is objectively the correct course of action. I pray constantly for the Lord to give me both the courage and the desire to do the right thing. Unlike you, I have the luxury of time. My window of opportunity is, as far as I could possibly know, wide open. Were this not the case, I would like to think that I would make contact no matter what the risk because that chance might not come again. I’m more likely to kick myself for not taking action when I could have than for taking action and getting burned for it. You might see things differently, but I encourage you to think about how you may feel if your window of opportunity closes before you act.

Praying for you. God bless!

Once again, thank you UpUp. What you have written is very helpful. Thank you.

 Its one of those cases of something be so 'on the line' without any real knowledge into the situation, its just a very hard call. 

Anyhoo… I’ve been praying about it, thinking about it. And yes, the closer to the time my window closes, the more antsy I get.

Of course you do—you’re under pressure. You need to make a decision, are unsure of what God’s will is in this situation, and you’re running out of time. :console: If I were operating within those constraints with regards to the second scenario I mentioned in my last post, I would also be antsy.

At this point, I’m afraid I have nothing left to offer except my prayers, which I assure you of. May the Lord bless you abundantly!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit