Nathan Kotylak: A Tale of Repentance, Restitution, and Redemption

Nathan Kotylak tries to set fire to a Vacouver Police cruiser

Fresh in our Canadian collective consciousness are the Vancouver riots, which have triggered outrage, disgust and disbelief throughout the entire nation, as well as across the world. The new G20 of the west coast, as people have dubbed the events, resulted in injuries, arrests and damages far beyond what we can imagine. Amidst of all the chaos was a 17-year-old named Nathan Kotylak who was just caught up in the rapture of the moment. But it was what he did a week later that astonished me the most.

As a believer in the Judeo-Christian faith, there are three key themes that are also considered the 3 R’s to a better life: repentance, restitution, and redemption. Repentance for acknowledging the wrong done and truly making an effort to turn things around. Restitution for making provisions toward those affected by one’s bad actions or deeds. Redemption is the factor that, after one admits and turns from their wrongs and makes them right, is restored to one’s self and lives life anew.

I don’t know if Nathan goes to church or believes in Judeo-Christian principles and ethics, but at a young age he did what few people can truly do: he took ownership of the wrongs he did. He was willing to bear the cost of his wrongdoing by turning himself over to authorities and paying restitution in terms of losing privileges (scholarships, Olympic hopes). Feeling that he brought shame to his family, his city and his nation, his step towards redemption began when his parents loved him and encouraged him to take a big step.

We have a natural tendency to crucify the criminal. Yet I feel that the most powerful display of values is for us to refrain from seeking payback or making threats against the person who did wrong to us. Nathan took a big step by admitting he was wrong and being willing to do what it takes to make it right. Now let us extend grace, peace and love to him for doing what few ever do. Nathan will become a greater man than he is already if we do show that love, grace and peace to him in his life.

Conrad Gayle is a 30 year old up-and-coming jazz pianist, composer and emerging author from Toronto, Ontario. His latest EP, Genesis, is up for sale on iTunes Canada. Conrad Gayle also graduated from York University with a degree in Sociology and currently hosts his own blog site.

The Power of Forgiveness – 3 of 3

Be sure to also read part one and part two of Barry‘s series on forgiveness. — ed.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been writing about a 35 year old woman who had a very important choice to make.

As a girl, she’d been badly abused by her father. For all of her adult life, she’d been trapped in an emotional prison, which was ultimately causing pain in both her body and her relationships.

After a meeting we had together, the woman did choose to forgive her father and consequently both of them felt an immediate freedom. In this article I’m explaining why forgiving someone promotes health in our souls, bodies and relationships.

When we choose to forgive the offender, and release them from our own desire to punish them (and let the law and ultimately God, make the proper judgment), then we free ourselves from the weight of anger, judgmentalism and desire to get even.

If we choose not to forgive the offending person, we lock him up in an emotional prison; but at the same time we lock ourselves up in an adjoining cell. We are both bound up in an emotional prison as long as the grudge continues. Even if we live thousands of miles apart, do not speak to each other, or if one party dies, the bars on the cell remain locked for the person who does not choose to forgive. Mental, physical and spiritual turmoil are intrinsically wrapped up in the emotional consequences of our choice.

Now say the person who has perpetrated the offense wants to be free from his prison. He has the ability to ask for forgiveness. (Whether the offended person chooses to talk, read his letter or respond in anger is their choice.) When the offender sincerely asks forgiveness, his emotional prison door swings open. He is free to walk out and live in freedom! (Although he may be in a physical prison for his crime, he is emotionally, mentally and spiritually free.) If the offended person responds positively to the guilty party’s sincere request for forgiveness, he also will be set free.

'The Sacrament of Reconciliation' St. Johns Church - Charlotte, NC

'The Sacrament of Reconciliation' St. Johns Church - Charlotte, NC

On the other side, if the offended party chooses at anytime to forgive the guilty person, then both of them are set free. The offender who has been locked up in an emotional prison for some time and then their door swings open because the other person has forgiven them, still has to make the choice of whether to walk out of the unlocked prison, or remain inside.

Happily, in the case of my young friend who was horribly abused by her evil father, she did, after 20 years choose to forgive him. When that happened, she experienced immediate release from the consequences of her lingering desires to get even. Headaches, depression, stomach problems and anger were relieved when she forgave her dad.

By the time the woman in my office had got to this part of her amazing story, her eyes were moist. “I really don’t understand it Pastor Barry, but this forgiveness thing really works!”

Today they are still a ways off from reconciliation and a restored father/daughter relationship, but they are moving closer with every month that passes. Forgiveness is very powerful!

Barry BuzzaBarry Buzza is the author of 12 books including The Red Thread, Life Center, Life Journey and Life Purpose. He is a veteran Canadian pastor and a regular columnist with his local paper.

The power of forgiveness – 2 of 3

ForgivenessLast week, I told a story that a 36-year-old mom shared with me about how she finally forgave her abusive father for his unspeakable behaviour toward her when she had been a young teenager. She told me how, when she finally did forgive her dad, she’d felt a notable freedom from the weight she’d been carrying for more than 20 years.

I ended my article halfway through her story. After explaining to me about releasing her father from her judgment, and feeling her own freedom, the lady continued.

“Another very strange thing did happen about three months after I forgave him.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“My sister called from Saskatchewan, where she and my father still live. She said to me: ‘You’ll never guess what has happened to dad over these last several weeks! He’s been so crippled up with arthritis through his sixties that he’s been in constant pain. He’s been miserable, even more than normal. But about three months ago, he began to feel better. I can hardly believe the change. It’s like he’s been let out of prison, and is free for the first time in years.”

The effect was dramatic in both of their lives. When the young woman forgave her dad, even though she didn’t tell him what she’d done, each had independently experienced an amazing feeling of freedom.

Before I go on to explain why I believe that young woman and her father benefited from her grace-filled forgiveness, let me interject that by forgiving someone, I am not implying that they are guiltless or should not be punished. For example, if a drunk driver runs into your car on the freeway, and causes you not only financial loss, but damage to health: I am saying that we would be wise to forgive him, but he should still suffer the legal and financial consequences of his carelessness. In the case of a man who has illegally and immorally abused a child, I am advocating forgiveness, but not discounting the rightness of him paying legal consequences.

Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist, had been imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II. He literally lost everything during his torturous incarceration. His wife and children had been taken from him; also, his profession; every material possession, and his human dignity, were all lost. But Dr. Frankl wrote later in his memoirs, Man’s Search For Meaning: “The one thing that no one can ever take from us is the freedom to choose our own attitude.” No one can make us mad, sad or glad. We alone get to choose our own response to what other people do to us or say to us.

Here’s how it works.

When someone does us wrong — whether it’s an ugly comment, an immoral money transaction or the infliction of actual physical harm — we have a choice as to how we will respond to his wrong deeds. We can choose to forgive them, or we can refuse to forgive them. We are not in control of the other person’s actions, only of our own.

What I’ve written is enough to chew on for this week. Next time, I’ll finish the story my young friend told to me.

Barry BuzzaBarry Buzza is the author of 12 books including The Red Thread, Life Center, Life Journey and Life Purpose . He is a veteran Canadian pastor and a regular columnist with his local paper.

The power of forgiveness – 1 of 3

I was speaking with a young woman in our church a couple of weeks ago and she told me an amazing story.. “About a year ago,” the lady said to me, “you were speaking on Sunday morning about what happens when we don’t forgive someone, and comparing the result to when we do forgive them.”

I remembered the subject, so I asked her what had happened to her. Why did she want to remind me of what I’d said.

“Well,” she continued, “I didn’t like what I’d heard from you. I resented the fact that you were suggesting that I do something I believed was inappropriate. You see, when I was a young girl, from ages 10 to 16 my father did unspeakable things to me in the name of what he called love.”

“I left home as soon as I was able to get a job. Moved away from my family home, and have not spoken to my father since I left. I have hated him for what he did. I only saw him once, and that was at my mom’s funeral. I believed that my father’s behaviour pushed mom to an early death.”

Of course no one really understands how another person feels unless he has walked in their shoes, but I did know, at that point in her story, where she was going with the subject of forgiveness.

“Go on, if you can,” I responded, “tell me what happened next.”

“The truth is, my father had ruined my life. I refused to forgive him for what he’d done to me, but I seemed to be the one who was suffering more than he was and that’s when I happened to be in church that Sunday and heard you talk about forgiveness. What does he know about forgiveness? I asked myself.”

“But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to forgive my father–even though he certainly didn’t deserve it. Deep inside somewhere, I knew what you were saying was right.”

That made me feel a bit better about my talk on forgiveness, but I was curious as to how this dear young mom had reacted to her inner conflict–to forgive or not to forgive. Her face began to brighten as she continued her story.

“Within two weeks I couldn’t take it any more. I gave in to what I secretly knew was right. All by myself, as my tears flowed I finally, after 20 years of pain and sadness, said to God, “I forgive my dad for what he did to me.” I couldn’t write to my father, or speak to him on the phone at that time–my emotions were far too tender, but I did release him from my anger and unforgiveness.”

“How did you feel after that?” I ventured to press.

“I cried and I cried. It was like a dam had burst in my soul, but within the hour, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I don’t understand it, but I felt free!”

She smiled and looked me in the eye when she added, “Now don’t go thinking that my dad and I became best friends after that. I’ve only spoken to him once since then; but another very strange thing did happen about three months after I forgave him.”

We’ll pick up the story next week.

Barry BuzzaBarry Buzza is the author of 12 books including The Red Thread, Life Center, Life Journey and Life Purpose . He is a veteran Canadian pastor and a regular columnist with his local paper.