Eight Years after Amish Tragedy, Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio Say Forgiveness Has Helped Community Heal
Philadelphia—Eight years ago this month, a quiet Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania was rocked to its core when a gunman, Charles Roberts, entered a school and took the lives of five girls, aged 7 to 13, then killed himself.
The story became an example of forgiveness to the nation, as the Amish community forgave Roberts, even going as far as attending his burial and donating money to his widow and children. It was an act that was nearly unfathomable, when the rest of the country wrestled with anger.
Karl Benzio, M.D., a psychiatrist and founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network (www.lighthousenetwork.org), an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, says that forgiveness figures into many more issues in our daily lives, from anger and broken relationships to addiction, depression and even physical health issues.
“As Christians, we are called to forgive, just as this Amish community did eight years ago,” Benzio says. “Chances are that many of us won’t face a tragedy as devastating as this, but throughout our lives, we will deal with seemingly unforgivable issues such as adultery, bullying, domestic violence, family bitterness and much more.
“Furthermore, forgiving does not simply erase the memories,” he continues, “and we must deal with the knowledge of the pain, hurt and heartache for many years to come—perhaps for the rest of our lives. But true forgiveness makes those years more peaceful and spiritually sound so that we can move on to a healthy place.”
Benzio notes that unforgiveness can also have physical consequences, affecting our circulatory system through heart disease; gastrointestinal system through IBS, ulcers, reflux, or Crohn’s disease; immune system through chronic infections and cancers; musculoskeletal system through headaches and muscle aches; nervous system through RSD or shingles, and skin through psoriasis and acne.
He adds, however, that many myths surround true forgiveness, such as a simplistic adage “forgive and forget,” but forgiveness does allow those who extend it—such as the entire Nickel Mines community—a chance to experience peace and healing. Some of these forgiveness myths include
- Forgiving means forgetting.
- Forgiving is starting with a clean slate, letting the offender “off the hook.”
- Forgiving is trusting just as you did before the transgression.
- Forgiving is never bringing up the past.
- Forgiveness is always easy.
- To forgive, we have to forget the offending behavior.
- Forgiveness requires rebuilding the relationship and reconciliation.
- To forgive is to condone, justify or excuse the offending behavior.
- We should forgive only if the other person deserves, asks for or accepts our forgiveness.
- When others forgive us, we are free of any consequences.
- When we forgive, we are being weak, passive, submissive or powerless.
Benzio also says that when we refuse to forgive, we are giving the transgressor power over our lives and over our ability to achieve peace.
“Forgiveness allows us to give up the need to collect payment for the transgressor,” Benzio says, “and reminds us that God is the only one who knows the future and knows when it’s best to extend grace or require a consequence.”
Forgiveness is a topic in many of Benzio’s counseling sessions, where he talks to patients about true forgiveness, which involves giving up dysfunctional anger, revenge, bitterness, judgments, passive aggressive behaviors, verbal abuse and resentment.
Those concerned about underlying anger and unforgiveness that may lead to substance abuse can call the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Network Helpline at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242). The most effective help will incorporate God into the healing process, because without Him, no amount of rehab, treatment or medication can bring lasting healing and transformation. Lighthouse Network also provides online resources for those concerned about a family member, friend or a loved one. Visit www.lighthousenetwork.org/im-family-a-friend.
Lighthouse Network representatives and counselors also help those in need navigate the complex health care system and complicated insurance processes, offering expertise to clients to maximize their insurance in order to obtain the best treatment option with minimal out-of-pocket cost. Lighthouse can also help those without insurance find treatment options.
Benzio shares insights on various mental health issues in the one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” airing on approximately 425 radio stations across the country, including 200 stations in the American Family Radio Network. The purpose of the “Life Change” program is to bring scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine some common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s obstacles and enjoy fulfilled lives. For more information on “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” visit www.lighthousenetwork.org/life-change-with-dr-karl/.
Lighthouse Network works to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).
Lighthouse Network’s web site, www.lighthousenetwork.org,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.
Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit www.lighthousenetwork.org/stepping-stones/ to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.
For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit www.lighthousenetwork.org or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).
To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at email@example.com, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.
Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.
Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy.