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?
Good morning, Marian! I haven’t seen “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” yet, but I have seen the excellent documentary film on Mr. Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which I highly recommend. A thoughtful post!
Numero uno again, Merril. I know you are crazy busy with final edits on your manuscript and preparing for Hanukkah, so thanks for reading/replying to get the ball rolling today.
The Fred Rogers is a very adult movie, based on a true story. The only thing “juvenile” about the film is the re-created set. Though it’s a departure from your usual fare, I think you may enjoy it.
Hi Marian. Thank you. Yes, I do know about the movie. I just haven’t had a chance to see it.
I haven’t seen “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” but it’s on my list. I’ve known people who’ve lived with unforgiveness and it’s destroyed them. Extending grace to those who’ve wronged us isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely less exhausting. One of my favorite quotes on forgiveness is by Oscar Wilde. “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”
Thanks again for the nod here, Jill. I love your Oscar Wilde quote, one which I’ve probably seen before but forgotten until you mentioned it here.
You will enjoy the Fred Rogers movie, very thoughtful and moving. 🙂
I LOVED this movie. Having lived in Pittsburgh 2017-2018 gave me a deeper connection, but the real power of the story is the forgiveness theme. I want to be more like Fred.
I’m glad you could relate to various settings in Pittsburgh as you took in the movie’s message. Forgiveness is a journey, which the film points out in the story of Lloyd Vogel, memoir-like because it speaks of transformation.
Yes, Shirley, I too want to be more like Fred.
Hi, Marian. I haven’t seen the movie, but I also have seen the documentary on Fred Rogers’s life. I grew up watching his show. The documentary made me cry! I love what the director said about having to rein in Tom Hanks’s natural buoyancy. I wish I had the exact quote in front of me. But I remember she said that Fred Rogers walked in stillness that was not natural to Tom Hanks, but he would have to try to emulate to play the part. Perhaps Mr. Roger’s habit of forgiveness was part of the peace he carried with him at all times (that and God).
Tom Hanks is one actor whose life, so far, has been a good example. In that sense, he is perfect for the part. I don’t know who could have played Fred better. I love your last sentence, L. Marie about Fred appearing set apart in that he seemed more open to the spirit’s leading than most folks.
Thanks for sharing your insights here. I’d like to emulate Fred’s “walking in stillness” today. 🙂
Beautiful quotations, Marian, and I agree with them all and the reasons behind it. Forgiving, however, is the easy part. Forgetting is a different matter: if only it was that easy!
I agree, Fatima. I don’t know that forgetting is part of the package, but forgiveness does help us hold the abuse/wrong in a way that will free our spirits. At least that has been my experience. That, and the passage of time.
Thanks for your honest comment!
We want to see the movie but haven’t yet. I did receive a letter from my mother yesterday; she had eagerly began reading your book (after tucking others on her pile under her desk for later reading: she “saves up” books so she always has a pile, but yours apparently moved to the top after I left it with her this past weekend for “Christmas.”)
She was very moved and disturbed by the stories of your father’s severe punishment and spent some paragraphs describing how close she felt to her own father, and it was her mother whose discipline sometimes bordered on abuse. (And her mother eventually asked for Mom’s forgiveness.) I will save her letter and I’m glad your book prompted her sharing these things with me on paper. I had heard her say these things earlier but it’s nice to have it written down.) Bless you and her and all of us as we learn to be more forgiving when we are wronged.
What a treasured letter! Thanks for telling your mother’s story here, Melodie. I’m glad this story ends in her mother’s request for forgiveness though mine was one-sided.
As you know, at one point I wavered on telling the hard parts of my growing up years. Yet, I decided to include them, so my story would be authentic and also because I believed telling it would help others along the path. Sure enough, one of my reviewers remarked about the healing he discovered: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1G77RAE6XX1VQ?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp
Forgiveness is the only path forward when we are wronged, even if the process takes years.
I spent too many years resenting and holding grudges against my parents. When I wrote my own memoir I found forgiveness and have been living in peace since. Letting go is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
Oh, Joan, I know your story well as we wrote in Chincoteague, you ending and mine beginning a manuscript. I notice that we published our memoirs three years apart in September.
Readers who want a heartfelt story of transformation for themselves or those on their Christmas list, here is a link to Joan’s book. I was so moved by her storytelling, I wrote notes in the margins and flyleaf. Scattering Ashes: A Memoir of Letting Go: https://www.amazon.com/Scattering-Ashes-Memoir-Letting-Go/dp/1631520954/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1576090255&sr=1-2
Marian, I made a hard copy for Susan to read. She (and I) are fascinated about your story. Merry Christmas.
Jerry, thank you! Forgiveness is the only path forward, especially for Christians who want to walk in victory. Your comment here means a lot to me. Merry Christmas to you, Susan, and Jill & family!
Marian — I love what you wrote: “From soul scars can come wisdom and, eventually, healing of the spirit.” I’ve experientially learned the truth of these words.
(Thank you for including a link to Housekeeping—The Kind that Matters).
A link to your wonderful post from long ago sat in my “Forgiveness” folder for quite a while. Now seemed the perfect time to include it. Thanks for acknowledging the power of forgiveness here, Laurie!
Forgiveness is powerful. Without it, the wrong can eat away at your soul. A woman in British Columbia forgave the young man who killed her husband. She said it was the only way she could carry on living. Thanks for this wonderful post.
Darlene thank you for this illustration. I can’t imagine what would it would like to experience the loss of a loved one this way. A few years ago the members of the Emanuel AME church in Charleston did the same thing to the perpetrator of a mass shooting during a service. It must be the only way forward. Besides, it is the example of Christ.
Oh Marian, I’m so glad you keep on blogging. What a way to get to the heart of living in peace. I love L. Marie’s thoughts on how, to act as Mr Rogers, Tom Hanks had to learn to walk in stillness. There are a lot of ramifications here for those of us who grew up supposedly as “quiet in the land” but in a culture that I feel was/is divided about the gifts of walking in quiet.
I appreciate your blessing here, Dolores. Blogging does take time and effort, but the connection to readers like you keeps me going.
Yes, the plain people in our origins struggled with the “peace” they proclaimed through the ordinance of non-resistance. If yours was like mine, it was a simple life (taken in its best form), but it has never ever easy to live in peace and harmony.
Thank you for that video clip of the interview Charlie Rose did with Mr. Rogers. I love how Mr. Rogers emanates a sense of peace, calmness, and pure love. I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between him and Charlie! I also did not know about Billie Graham’s daughter’s struggle with her upbringing, but I can see how that could have happened. I think there are issues with Franklin as well.
Thank you for having the courage to share about your own conflicts with your father and how difficult that was. My father was a Mr. Roger’s type, for sure, and I love him for it in retrospect. Growing up, I sometimes wanted him to show more spunk, but now I’m so grateful for who he was. It was my mom who used the wooden spoon. When I was 14 she tried it for the last time. I just laughed at her and she never used corporal punishment on me again! She too apologized. I never held it against her. She did the best she could under the circumstances in which she found herself with 8 children.
Elfrieda, I didn’t notice the contrast between Charlie’s and Fred’s demeanor until you mentioned it. Thanks for the sharp eye.
As to the Graham children, it had to have been hard living in the shadows of such towering figures. Yes, Franklin has openly admitted he struggled with substance abuse asa young man, but now has a wonderful ministry including Samaritan’s Purse.
I know you revere your mother and father. Eight children, oh my! Your parents were the examples you needed, a father’s mildness with your mother’s spunk, able to ask forgiveness.
Marian, wonderful post! I have to say that forgiveness, both for the people whom I felt hurt me and for myself has been the single most important impact of writing my memoirs. To achieve it has been a gift, a freeing experience for me.
You know, I feel the same way, and I like the way you describe it here. I thought I had forgiven my father over the years. But the memoir writing has brought me full circle toward the freedom you describe. It was hard-won therapy, really!
PS and I love Mr Rogers. My kid grew up with him. I want to see that movie! What an extraordinary man.
I have always been struck by how Fred Rogers walked through the world without guile or pretense, a gentle spirit. You will love the movie. It’s very “adult,” with a concurrent story about Lloyd Vogel, a man who needed to forgive. Actually, the only juvenile thing about the movie was the recreated sets we are familiar with.
Loved this post, Marian. What an important topic. Forgiveness is powerful. To me, what’s long made sense is it is not something we seek; not what we ask for. Instead, forgiveness is a gift we give. When we’ve hurt someone, asking their forgiveness, because we want it, seems selfish, certainly self-focused. But when someone has hurt us, offering forgiveness frees us and lets us move forward in our life.
BUT, I always like to add, don’t do it too soon. We’re allowed to feel the hurt and pain; we’re allowed to feel angry. And then, when we want to be free of those emotions, we forgive. For us. (I’ll see the Mr. Rogers/Tom Hanks movie as soon as it reaches Netflix. With Woody’s hearing, we don’t go to the movies anymore).
Well spoken, like the therapist you are. Yes, we must feel the pain and release the anger. I know I did, but over the years I came to believe resentment served no purpose except to keep me in bondage, especially after my dad died. Writing this memoir cinched the decision for me to let it all go . . . one of its many gifts.
You may be surprised that the Mr. Rogers movie is so “adult.” It’s certainly not a movie for kids, although older ones would get the message. Thanks for all this, Janet.
Thanks Marian for connecting some dots on this subject of forgiveness. I relate to Janet Givens’ comment about not rushing to forgiveness. By letting the process of owning our emotions and woundedness and letting the healing come out of the ongoing awareness of reality and The Healer held side by side, I begin to gain perspective. Mennonite Daughter has helped me in this way, to go more into depth with my own healing in regards to family and cultural imbalances. This is a gift of life review and gratitude. Thanks for the blog Marian! Nice to find out we’re cousins too!
As to connecting the dots, thank you for doing your part in initiating the research to find out we are third cousins on the Longenecker side. Thanks too for responding here and sharing your insights with other reader!
It’s gratifying when “life review” happens on both sides of the screen. Or between writer and reader in memoir. Thank you, Bob!
I have never heard of the above people so it’s always interesting to discover people of such worth .
I myself have always found it hard to forgive someone’s wrong doing and I’ll be honest I can hold a grudge but after reading all these lovely message and antidotes it’s more painful not to .
Resentment and holding grudges can keep you/me in chains. That’s my experience. But like Janet said (above), it’s not an easy or quick process. She says, “But when someone has hurt us, offering forgiveness frees us and lets us move forward in our life.” I really believe that too.
Thanks for expressing your feelings here. You are definitely not alone. Sometimes forgiveness is an act of the will, and then the feelings may follow.
Gee, it’s so good to hear from you. I’m glad we are connected again, Cherry! (( ))
That last quote is so TRUE! I’m still struggling with it though.
It’s part of the human condition to struggle. Forgiveness is sometimes a process, but believe me, it leads to the release of a burden and freedom eventually. Thanks for commenting here, Fiona!
Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.
I remember so clearly the statement by a mother of one of those killed in the July bombing of a bus in central London – a long time ago. She said words to the effect of: it’s not for me to forgive them and my son is not here to forgive them. May they seek forgiveness from G.d. That made an impression on me.
Your quotes are powerful – though my sense is that Mengele and cohorts do not ‘deserve’ forgiveness. Nor others that perpetrate such evils against mankind.
On another level though we can and do forgive human transgressions, and it is in our self interest to be forgiving, to let go of resentments that eat us up. In the same way that we forgive ourselves we can extend forgiveness to others. Compassion towards ourselves and others goes a long way …
Susan, thank you for teasing out the subtle distinctions in the broad subject of forgiveness, never an easy task. I don’t believe Eva Kor thought the Nazis deserved forgiveness, but she decided to let go of the burden of resentment she was bearing, so she could go on with her life, living it as a rebuke to their atrocities.
She didn’t want their behavior in the past to destroy her heart, as the saying goes.
The book I reviewed by Nora Krug describes the guilt and blame some Germans felt at the knowledge of what their people had perpetrated on the Jews in particular and consequently upon the whole world in the ensuing war.
Yes, as you say, compassion goes a long way in understanding our fellow man – in this season especially.
Forgiveness must be one of the most difficult virtues, but if one can muster it to get rid of resentment or other feelings that destroy oneself, then it seems worthwhile. It certainly is a tough one for me, but, with time comes healing of wounds, which I think the cause for forgiveness would be as well, a wound…
I haven’t seen the Fred Rogers movie (and I didn’t grow up with him either), but I look forward to watching it in the future. It’s sure Tom Hanks does a fantastic job!
You touch on interesting concepts, Marian and it’s certainly the season for love, peace, and forgiveness!
I’m glad this post resonated with you. Forgiveness is never easy, but it is freeing . . . when the time is right.
Yes, I will join you in this season of love, peace, and forgiveness, Liesbet!
Great post and quotes Marian. As one who too had to find her own forgiveness for my own mother, I can totally relate. Although, there are just some things that I find unforgivable and Nora and Eva are certainly bigger women than I, because I could never ever find it in my heart to forgive crimes of atrocity.
Thanks for reading the post and also the book review. You are one of the few who read it, I believe. (See, I can tell from your “like” on the page!) You do have an inquiring mind.
We have both trod the long path toward forgiveness, Debby. The process is usually never fast, and it’s certainly never easy. 🙂
And you would know that for sure! I had to chuckle at my ‘inquiring mind’, because that curiosity in life since childhood got me where I am today lol. Also, you know I read a lot of books in that genre WWII sagas. 🙂
One word–forgiveness–is filled with power from on high, within family and community, and within ourselves. This is a powerful post and one that will stay with me for some time. Thank you for sharing it, Marian.
Thanks for your observation, Sherrey. Reckoning with forgiveness is a struggle, isn’t it? I like the essence of what at least two people said, “It can’t be rushed . . . it’s a process.”
I like your phrase “power from on high.” Forgiveness is divine; it requires super-natural intervention. At least, that his been my experience. 🙂
Thank you, Marian. I share a quote on forgiveness from yet another tradition and teacher–Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist. She’s taught me so much.
“There is a simple practice we can do to cultivate forgiveness. First we acknowledge what we feel—shame, revenge, embarrassment, remorse. Then we forgive ourselves for being human. Then, in the spirit of not wallowing in the pain, we let go and make a fresh start. We don’t have to carry the burden with us anymore. We will discover forgiveness as a natural expression of the open heart, an expression of our basic goodness. This potential is inherent in every moment. Each moment is an opportunity to make a fresh start.”
From her book, The Places That Scare You
Christmas Blessings and New Beginnings to all.
Thanks for adding your quote here and a reference to Pema Chodron’s book. Yes, I am familiar with her work, which certainly resonates with me. Forgiveness cannot be rote or mindless; otherwise, the act is perfunctory and insincere. Resentments are sure to re-surface if not dealt with by acknowledging our feelings to begin with.
Enjoy this season along with the canine capers, which are sure to continue. 🙂
Our pastor talked about forgiveness this past Sunday and read a beautiful story of a woman who forgave the ex-husband who bashed her head in, impairing both her mind and her life. The story was taken from “Beloved Chaos: Moving from Religion to Love in a Red-Light District” by Jamie West Zumwalt. Highly recommended.
It’s good to see you here, fresh into matrimony, Luci. Last year at this time you never dreamed you’d be a “Mrs.” It’s not a cliche to say that God moves in mysterious ways. From what I can intuit, you have married a winner, someone who believes in you from head to toe.
Thank you for the book recommendation. I will check it out! 🙂