I hope never to experience what Austin Hemmings' family went through last week. The 44-year-old was fatally stabbed in downtown Auckland after rushing to the aid of a woman he didn't know, and in the blink of an eye his family were deprived of a devoted father and husband.
I'd like to think, though, that if the unthinkable ever happened, I'd be able to accept it with the same grace Hemmings' devoutly Christian family have shown. I hope that I would choose not to be angry or bitter at a time of intense pain, and to focus as they have on love.
But who knows how any of us will react?
The victims of violent crime who appeared on Close Up last week, encouraged by Garth McVicar and his Sensible Sentencing Trust to relive their traumatic experiences with audiences around the country in their campaign for tougher sentences and greater victims' rights, claimed on the programme to be "better for it".
But I had to wonder whether it was possible for victims to heal when they seemed to be locked into reliving a nightmare. As a victims support group has said, media coverage of a victim's grief can amount to "re-victimisation", rather than helping the victim to come to terms with the incident and "move on".
McVicar would doubtless argue that the end justifies the means. But his perception of the level of crime in the community, and his punitive, get-tough solutions, don't seem to tally with reality.
Not that he's so out of step with the rest of us. Public perception of crime rates has always been out of proportion to the reality overseas as here, thanks to media portrayal.
A 2003 survey of New Zealanders' attitudes to crime and punishment showed that we tended to overestimate crime statistics and underestimate the lengths of prison sentences. Even as sentences have lengthened and our prison population has exploded (up around 70 per cent under Labour) and recorded crime has fallen (with the exception of violent crime), we have been convinced of the opposite.
Our perception of victims may be similarly lopsided. In his 2007 report on the criminal justice sector, Ombudsman Mel Smith says victims aren't overlooked, and while it's critical that they receive "appropriate recognition", including financial compensation, "the injection of a victim into the process risks jeopardising the integrity of the system".
Says a Salvation Army court and prison officer in Beyond The Holding Tank, a Salvation Army report on prison policy: "Some victims get satisfaction seeing the criminal suffer as much as they can. They need to have some different way of dealing with the hurt."
A restorative justice facilitator adds: "Harsher penalties are not in fact what heals victims, but are presented as the solution to victims' problems."
Forgiveness, it seems, is the way to heal. Perhaps one of the best-known examples of that is the American woman Aba Gayle, who, after years of being "stuck in anger", forgave the man who stabbed her 19-year-old daughter to death.
She writes: "By all definitions I am a victim for I am the mother of a beautiful young daughter who was brutally murdered. But I have learned that there is another way to live and that I have a choice. I have chosen to stop being a victim."
After "eight long years of a passionate lust for revenge", Gayle discovered the healing power of forgiveness, through spirituality and Christianity. It was a process that led her to write a letter to her daughter's killer, who was on death row in California's San Quentin prison. As soon as she sent the letter, "all the anger, all the rage, all the lust for revenge simply vanished".
"I had been healed by the simple act of offering the gift of forgiveness."
When her daughter's killer wrote back, Gayle was amazed by his "gentleness and kindness".
"He expressed remorse and sorrow for the crime, also stating that he fully understood how empty such words might sound."
During the first of what became regular visits, she looked around at the death-row inmates and "did not see a single monster in that room. It was filled with ordinary-looking men". Since then she has campaigned against the death penalty.
Gee Walker's 18-year-old son was murdered in 2005 in Britain by two racist white youths, but she felt no hatred for them. "I just feel like, what's missing in their lives? It's strange but I'd like to do the motherly thing and sit with them and find out why. But as for hate, none at all. I just feel sadness."
Her comments drew criticism from those who felt she was too forgiving of the murderous scum. But, she asked, "why live a life sentence? Hate killed my son, so why should I be a victim too? Unforgiveness makes you a victim."