I have been watching a documentary about the civil rights movement in America in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. One element of the story focused on a motel in Florida. The owner refused to let any person of color in the facility. He was polite at first according to Dr. King; however, on one day he was an example of the inhumanity that was at the forefront of segregation in America.
As a protest, several African American girls and young men arrived by taxi and jumped into the Motels pool. The owner tried to remove them and when it did not prove successful he started dumping muriatic acid in the pool. The entire scene was filmed and his face took on a monstrous grimace as he ran around the pool dumping the chemical onto the swimmers who then vacated the pool.
Now fast forward 30 years and his daughter is speaking about him. She explained that he was the product of the thinking of the time and was actually seen as a moderate by fellow southerners for his attitude towards African Americans. A video clip of him now; telling how he asked the mayor to stop the police from shocking the young protesters with cattle prods back then; which they did, seemed to speak to his moderate beliefs. Now, his daughter seemed to be saying that he needed to be forgiven. Andrew Young, a young protester then, had been savagely beaten by police in front of that same hotel yet he forgave then and now. That was so incredibly powerful and it was repeated over and over again as African Americans were physically assaulted and did not retaliate. This lack of response was probably what won the hearts and minds of the American public and helped to push discrimination into a corner. It gave me pause to consider how people could be forgiven such hateful acts but they have. Now as the holiday season is near I have thought how small and trite my complaints about others might be. Surely if the people that did such horrible things can be forgiven than forgiving small insults and exclusions can be forgiven and forgotten.
Somehow, these small less defined insults seem more difficult to dispatch. First, there is no universal agreement that being excluded is an insult; it might have been quite by accident. That comment that you took as insulting may not have been meant to be an insult at all.
Yes, we all sit quite righteously and feel justified to feel angry at someone who has insulted us or our loved ones. The very small-mindedness of these insults makes them somehow easier to hold on to or so we believe. The fact is, holding on to resentments doesn’t hurt the other person, it hurts us. If the other person cared they would have long ago asked for forgiveness in order to salvage their relationship with us or hey are not aware that they insulted us in the first place.
The act of forgiving is simple, just let go of old hurts and resentments. Forgiveness does not change the past but it can change how we feel about the past. When we make peace with our past resentments we are so much more available to enjoy life and each other now.
Many years ago, Socrates explained that people frequently choose what will bring them the most good or pleasure and when people do not observe well they make mistakes in a lesser choice. Humans are fallible and they are not omniscient so mistakes are part of our humanness. In this understanding that we all error in judgment may allow us to better forgive others and ourselves. Just as the motel owner thought he was doing the best he could at the time, we all fall short due to popular thinking. All we can do is to change in ways that seem reasonable and fair when those new opportunities arise.
It was quite common at one time for parents and teachers to hit children when they misbehaved, would anyone consider going back to those behaviors? Probably not. This was the best thinking of the day and we have forgiven those that did what they thought was the best choice in their time.
The holidays soften our hearts and help us to feel more compassion for others. During this holiday take advantage of your softened heart and forgive those that you have held a grudge against. The bigger gift you will give will be to you. Your stress will decrease and your sense of peace will increase. Your forgiveness may not mean much to the person that offended you but you never know until you try.
Have a nice holiday!
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net