The hardest part; 70 times 7

I had planned to take a breather, hoping to lighten up and even inject some humor here. Apparently the Lord had other plans… even tragic ones.

The killings at Oikos University bring back horrible memories of the Va. Tech massacre in 2007. All murder is pain, and killing spurred by vengeance doubles the suffering. There is a common thread between these two perpetrators and me… we are Koreans.

Seung-Hui Cho, who bears my last name, and One L. Goh were/are killers… and victims. Cho committed suicide and Goh is now in custody. They were victims of discrimination and bullying. I remember vividly being teased as a youth. Born in the USA, I never had an accent, thankfully. It is difficult to imagine the humiliation if my speaking voice called as much attention as my straight black hair and Asian eyes.

Through high school, Cho was teased for his shyness and unusual speech patterns. Some classmates even offered their lunch money to Cho just to hear him talk. According to a high school classmate, Cho looked down and refused to speak when called upon. After one teacher threatened to give him a failing grade for not participating in class, he began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded “like he had something in his mouth. […] The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, ‘Go back to China.'” Another classmate stated that “there were just some people who were really cruel to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him. He didn’t speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him.” Cho was also teased as the “trombone kid” for his practice of walking to school alone with his trombone. Other students recall crueler names and that most of the bullying was because he was alone. Other reports say Cho was stuffed into garbage cans and made to eat garbage. No one came to the aid of the boy, who was also small for his age. Not teachers, not other students.

Imagine the toll this takes upon you – especially during adolescence. Especially for a shy and lonely person. An easy target. Every single day of your life.

These men had psychiatric problems. Whether or not this was something latent or brought out by emotional stress we will never know. I shared one thing with them: rage. I remember the rage that spilled forth from the racial slurs slicing my heart open. It astonishes and disturbs me how much I identify with these mass murderers. No, my life was not even close to what Cho suffered, but my wounds were my wounds. Eventually I sought relief in alcohol and drugs. Only many years later did I receive the true healing that only God can provide.

But what about the victims? What about their families? What consolation do they find in the suffering of someone who mercilessly ended the promise of life for their son or daughter? Will any explanation soothe their need to hold their child in their arms again?

Ironically, both of these men were from Christian backgrounds. Perhaps there was too much Christian talk surrounding them and not enough Christian love.

I find no pleasure in writing about this – rather, extreme discomfort. Only bad news sells. So where do we find the good news?

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18)
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The lessons of this parable are straightforward, or are they? We must forgive because we are forgiven. But what about the “outraged” servants? Does the master perhaps call in their debts instead of the debts of the unmerciful servant? In other words, who are we to put a limit on the forgiveness of the Father? Even to the worst of us: the unmerciful, the bigot, the murderer… we must not limit God’s ability to forgive without fear and without end. We can never diminish Christ’s work on the cross.

If a family member of one of the deceased were to read this article, perhaps they would feel rage as well. And I wouldn’t blame them. I don’t claim to be able to forgive like the Father. What if I were asked to give one of my precious sons for a thief, rapist or killer?

As we approach Easter, this moment hangs like a cloud over me, and I suddenly feel my heart clenched and my throat choked. Father, let me not seek to understand it all. Let it be sufficient for me to huddle under the wing of Your grace and mercy.

Let me find hope and courage and reason in your redemptive work; in your Blood and in your Body.

JHR

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Wikipedia provided all information about Seung-Hui Cho, One L. Goh, and the shootings at VA Tech and Oikos University.

30 comments on “The hardest part; 70 times 7

  1. Bird says:

    Very sad. There are no words…

  2. Rachel says:

    Vince,

    I feel sadness for you and all people who have been through or being bullied.
    It can scar you for life but with Gods help we can get through it. I remember growing up in a nice area of New York and was bullied because We! thought we were better. Sad thing is we were both the same color race/black/african american. I would often wonder is it the parents or just why are these children so wicked and hateful.

    I used all the hate brought against me into a positive by helping women to empower themselves and children. Self love for your self and others♥ I am thankful for being friends and love ones of all races beacause were all Gods children. Blessings and love to you friend. ~Rachel

    • Vince Chough says:

      The sad thing is that I was bullied, and I also did my share of bullying. Thankfully I have been healed and forgiven. For the non-believer this may be a cop out, but for me it is salvation. Many blessings to you Rachel!

  3. Rachel says:

    🙂 word correction because on earlier post..thanks..Rachel

  4. terry1954 says:

    That was very good, but it reminded me of my mentally challenged brother. when we were riding on the school buses, the kids picked on him for his name, alvin. it was back when the chipmunks were popular. they were so mean and cruel to him

  5. I teach high school and really struggle with how to encourage my students to be kind to each other, and also to catch every mean thing. Kids are cruel and I don’t tolerate it, but I can only be in my own room. I remember a girl committing suicide my senior year of high school because of the teasing. I don’t want that to happen to one of my kids.

  6. Pat says:

    Hello Vince,I to can identify with the sadness of being mistreated because of your race or whatever,bullying is a terrible thing. But really not much attention is giving to the one being bullied until something like this happens. As much as this goes on why didn’t someone care enough to step in and stop it,and it will happen again unless someone moves in to help the one begin bullied,it’s sad but it’s true.Wonderful post Vince I truly enjoyed the read.
    Love you brother 😀

    • Vince Chough says:

      Thank you Pat. I know what you mean, in retrospect we all say… “Of course, that guy was a ticking time bomb.” We are often too busy though to listen, too busy to feel.

      • Pat says:

        I know Vince and it’s bad! Something has to be done about “bullying”!! It’s on the news now and so many suffer silently until they can’t take any more!

  7. tessf says:

    A poignant piece, Vince.

    For me, it was always the loneliness of being different that pushed my pencil or brush across the page time and time again. . .to express the things I couldn’t talk about. . writing and creating are the stuff of healing, I think. .

    So sad and tragic that nobody was there to help these kids when they to find a way to escape themselves.

    • Vince Chough says:

      I also imagine the victims… how far back their hurt must reach. How many times over and over will they ask, “Why didn’t anyone do something?”

      Yes, efforts were made. But efforts are hard to sell to one who loses a loved one.

  8. tessf says:

    *needed to find a way to escape

  9. tessf says:

    There is a book written by a teacher, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play” or something to that effect. It’s about a teacher who got in there and worked with students to help them make better choices with regard to inclusion.

    Kids bully others because they feel unloved themselves. So that’s a huge piece of it too. We need to teach them to be compassionate, to find joy in caring for others.

  10. ansuyo says:

    Forgiveness is so difficult, but it is so healing. I have never understood why people have to try to make themselves feel good by putting down others. I see it all the time, though. Good post.🙂 Angie

  11. Danielle says:

    That was a powerful message and a timely reminder for this fellow follower of Christ. It is too easy to hold hatred in one’s heart, but Christ demands that we let it go and take in His love instead so that we can overflow with it to others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. granbee says:

    All of you there and the family of the dead students are in my heart in prayers–and I carry them to the altar on this Maundy Thursday eve, when I go for communion. Such hard lessons at this time of horror, to forgive as Jesus forgave His killers from the Cross!

  13. Cristal says:

    This broke my heart. To think of a person being tormented because of nationality is hard. To think of others, because of nationality, feeling arrogant enough to hurt others is also hard. I see hurt and I see hardness of heart. Both are in need of healing.

  14. Thanks for your thoughtful post. Our national pastor, Rev. In Jin Moon has often talked about the bullying she and her brothers experienced. I was bullied as a kid, but I was never peed on or stuffed in trash cans. I can’t imagine the pain and rage they must have felt. We definitely need more Godly love in our hearts. In addition to the 70 times 7, we also need to pray about what it means to love our enemies. How can we reach out across racial, national and cultural barriers to love those who look like enemies to our prejudiced eyes. Those “enemies” are still God’s precious children with tender hearts like our own.

  15. jamie says:

    Vince,
    Thank you for writing this post. Your thoughts, feelings and willingness to be transparent are moving and inspirational. I pray that God grant you peace!

    Many blessings!
    Jamie

  16. Tammy says:

    In a perfect world, we would learn from past mistakes and make every effort to correct or improve our behaviors. It’s always so sad when the solution is as simple as to love one another, the strength and power of God’s love to guide us…Thank you for this very thought provoking and sad essay, Vince. We must each do our best to not let tragedy happen in the lives around us, every day.

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