What do Fred Rogers, Ruth Graham, Eva Kor, and I have in common? Read on to find out!
During the 2019 holiday season, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” has played in theatres all across the nation. The movie is a tribute to Fred Rogers, the legend of children’s programming since the 1970s. His PBS show promotes kindness, understanding and forgiveness.
The “real” Fred Rogers spoke of forgiveness in an interview with Charlie Rose. Here’s a 23-second clip.
Ruth “Bunny” Graham, daughter of the famous evangelist struggled with forgiveness. In her book, Forgiving My Father, Forgiving Myself (2019), Ruth lays bare her life: two divorces, single parenthood, serious surgeries. She also explores possible roots of her bitterness: a father’s extended absences during her childhood, her mother’s inability to accept a daughter who frequently “messed up.”
At the end of Chapter 23 in my memoir, Mennonite Daughter, I draw some conclusions about my own path toward forgiveness:
I can’t change the realities of our forebears’ lives or alter their decisions in disciplining me,” as Christina Baldwin points out in Story Catcher, echoing my own conclusions. But, like her, I have learned to carry the story differently, by understanding possible reasons for [my father’s] anger, some revealed in my sister’s sociology notebook, “so the lineage can heal.” Scars expose the existence of old wounds, wounds that time and forgiveness can begin to heal. From soul scars can come wisdom and, eventually, healing of the spirit.
Forgiveness: Two Traditions
Matthew 6:14 King James Version (KJV)
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Ephesians 4:32 proclaims: Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Christ for God’s sake, has forgiven you.
What does the Torah and Talmud say about forgiveness?
Jewish law requires us to ask forgiveness from anyone whom we may have harmed, whether the harm was physical, financial, emotional, or social. We are also required to be gracious in granting forgiveness. The Talmud (Bava Kamma 8:7) states, “From where do we know that it is cruel to not forgive? For it says, “Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech…” (Genesis 20:17).
Eva Mozes Kor had to learn how to forgive Josef Mengele, a Nazi physician who performed invasive medical experiments on Jews at Auschwitz. At first her heart screamed retaliation. She rampaged across the country demanding retribution for the sins of the Holocaust. Eventually, her attitude softened as she mentions in the Netflix original Forgiving Mengele.
Eva regards forgiveness as a method of healing and concludes: “I want my time on earth to count for something.” Born in 1934, she died this year, 2019.
Nora Krug probes the guilt and blame she and her German ancestors carry in her 2018 graphic memoir, Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home. You can read my review HERE.
Author and blog friend, Laurie Buchanan offers some final words on forgiveness in a blog post she wrote in 2013, entitled Housekeeping, the Kind that Matters.
- Forgiveness is a pillar of other religious traditions as well. Here’s your chance to add your own.
- Share other quotes or stories of forgiveness to the ones you’ve read here. Book titles welcome also.
- If you’ve seen the Fred Rogers movie, what is your most significant takeaway?