It took 60 years to walk across the room

Sometimes, the longest walk of your life is across the room. At least it was for Don Malarkey and Fritz Engelbert.  These two soldiers were enemies on opposite sides of one of the bitterest fights of WWII.  After one fantastic encounter, these two enemies became the most unlikely Band of Brothers 60 years after the war was over.

During Unbeatable Episode 113, the children of these two amazing warriors described how their fathers’ lives changed after this chance encounter.  Don walked across a crowded room to offer his former enemy a beer at a bar in Bastogne.  From that simple gesture, both men found gifts they desperately needed and could only provide each other… FORGIVENESS and a deep friendship.

Taking the initiative to forgive

Clinics and counseling centers are littered with combat veterans who are trying to find a bandage to treat the terrible burden of hate and regret from their time in battle.  If anyone should be haunted until their grave by all the death and destruction that they witnessed in war, it was Don and Fritz after the bitter fighting in the Battle of the Bulge

Maybe Don Malarkey realized the power of forgiveness when he got up and walked across a crowded room to offer Fritz Engelbert a beer. It takes great courage to find the strength to take the initiative to forgive. It’s not about letting the other person off the hook or condoning their behavior. It’s about freeing yourself from the burden of anger and resentment.

Forgiveness is more powerful than liberating a continent from a brutal tyrant for the person carrying the pain of resentment. However, it is also one of the most challenging things to do, especially when you have been deeply hurt by someone else. Incredibly, these two men gave each other the treatment they desperately needed from all the hurt and anger after the war.  

Getting over the hurt

Holding onto anger and resentment can be exhausting and take a toll on you mentally and physically. The longer you hold onto the hurt you’ve experienced, the heavier it becomes. If you carry this heavy load long enough, it can change from resentment to bitterness. 

Bitterness hurts everyone close to you- not only the person who has done you wrong. After the war, Fritz and Don were hurting from carrying the heavy load of unforgiveness.  Sixty years after the fighting ended, even their children could see the effect of the war on their fathers.

Conversely, forgiveness can help you release that heavy load and become free from the burden of bitterness.

Giving up your reason for revenge

Forgiveness isn’t for cowards! I believe people get stuck carrying the weight of bitterness because forgiveness is hard.  Let’s be honest: If it were easy to forgive, we’d always do it, and I’d not need to write this article today.

I’m thankful that Don and Fritz’s children decided to show the story of forgiveness and healing to the world in their amazing book, Saving My Enemy. I believe that if these two great warriors can overcome the pain of loss and the shame of WWII, anyone can find the strength to forgive as well.

Walk in the other soldier’s boots

In order to turn an enemy into a friend, try to put yourself in the other person’s boots. Looking at the world through their perspective doesn’t mean that you must excuse their behavior, but it can help you see things from a different angle and find compassion for them. Don and Fritz never tried to hide what they did to each other on the battlefield.  Rather, they decided to look beyond the terrible memories and forge a new future together.

There’s nothing easy about forgiveness.  So, give yourself time to work through the process. 

Seek out support if you get stuck. Forgiveness can be a long and challenging journey, and seeking support is okay. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or consider speaking with a trained professional to help you work through your emotions and guide you through the process.

Don and Fritz prove that forgiveness is possible for anyone willing to take the initiative to walk across the room. Forgiveness is not easy, but it’s necessary for your well-being. By acknowledging your pain and working through the process, you can find the strength to forgive and move forward with your life. Remember, sometimes the longest walk is across the room, but taking that first step can lead to a brighter and more fulfilling future.

Listen to Don and Fritz’s story in my recent interview HERE.

Further reading

It’s not the fight that matters

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Why injustice is your fight

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