When the World Trade Center towers fell on September 11, 2001, Greg Rodriguez was one of the victims who died in the wreckage. As his mother, Phyllis, and his father grieved, they also carefully considered their response to such a horrific attack. In 2002, Phyllis met Aicha el-Wafi, the mother of one of the men accused of helping the terrorists. Phyllis said she “approached her and opened my arms. We embraced and cried. . . . For Aicha and me, there was an immediate bonding. . . . We both suffered on account of our sons.”
Phyllis met Aicha amid shared pain and sorrow. Phyllis believed that fury over her son’s death, appropriate as it was, could not heal her anguish. Listening to Aicha’s family story, Phyllis felt compassion, resisting the temptation to view them merely as enemies. She desired justice, but believed we must release the temptation to seek revenge that often grips us when we’ve been wronged.
The apostle Paul shared this conviction, admonishing us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger . . . along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). As we relinquish these destructive powers, God’s Spirit fills us with new perspective. “Be kind and compassionate to one another,” Paul says (v. 32). It’s possible to work for wrongs to be made right while also refusing rageful vengeance. May the Spirit help us show compassion that overcomes bitterness.