I learned more from a 20-year-old woman from Maryland today than I have from all the books and articles I've read and people I've spoken to this month. Just two weeks ago, Kristen Loetz was shot in the face by Ryan Shallue, a scornful ex-boyfriend, who then turned the gun on and killed Charles Abbott, a male friend who was trying to protect her, before fatally shooting himself.
So what do you suspect the nursing student did when she was released from the hospital a few days ago? Find herself so destroyed by anger that she could barely utter a word to another human being that wasn't disdainful? I mean, that would be totally normal, wouldn't it?
But no -- this amazing woman instead took to Facebook and forgave her attacker.
Loetz, an honor student, seemed to be minding her own business at her home off the campus of Salisbury University when Shallue showed up on September 3 and began fighting with her. Abbott, a close friend, happened to be there at the time and stepped in to defend Loetz. That's when her ex pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and committed this heinous crime. The couple had been broken up for four months prior to the shooting.
On her Facebook page, which -- amazingly -- still features photos of Loetz with Shallue, the honor student wrote: "To Ryan, you were never a bad person. Just one who lost their way and couldn't get it back. I hope you have found a better place where you can find peace."
In another heartbreaking post to her friend Abbott, she wrote: "Everyone needs to know how you saved my life that day. If you had not been there to protect me I know I would not be here to tell our story. It is so unfair that it is you and not me."
Wow. If I were the mother of this girl I would be so incredibly proud of her and so impressed with her emotional strength and health. Letting go of grudges and resentment is vital to her psychological well-being, but most of us know how difficult it can be to actually forgive those who even hurt us with unkind words -- I can't imagine so quickly forgiving someone who tried to threaten my life.
Loetz's understanding and forgiveness will also help the families of Shallue and Abbott make peace with what happened. Regardless of our feelings about the shooter, his family is mourning the loss of their son, too. The fact that this young woman is able to put aside her own anger to make others feel better speaks volume about her.
Do you think you could be as forgiving as Loetz if you were in her shoes?
Image Via Kristen Loetz/Facebook