Forgiveness is something we have a hard time with, it seems to be very expensive real estate in the heart. We don’t forgive ourselves or others very easily. We carry on grudges for decades. I believe this is because we don’t accept the messiness of our own dark sides.

In the 2004 documentary What I Want My Words To Do To You about playwright Eve Ensler’s (The Vagina Monologues) work with women in prison; she describes the world at large as keeping prisoners “frozen in their mistakes”. Michael Vick served hard time in Leavenworth Federal Prison, he paid the price & lost millions. Yet, we want to keep him frozen in his mistakes.

Think about it. Why is it so satisfying to not forgive? It’s delicious to feel someone is a worse human being than we are. We can smugly say “We would never have done that.”

While it is truly a struggle to accept our own dark sides. It’s the essential work of maturity. We grow up by honestly facing painful situations. It’s what makes going to therapy an act of courage. It is hard work to look at ourselves & take responsibility. We far prefer to avoid & deflect in this culture that prefers texting about important things instead of face to face encounters. So let’s get ugly about Michael Vick instead.

Denial is the most powerful force in the universe is a favorite saying of mine. So we pretend that we are better than we are and we love to point our fingers. There are so many examples of pretending; My husband just drinks a little too much he’s not an alcoholic, the wife who whispers ugly things to her children about the husband she is divorcing so they side with her or pretending we are chubby instead of obese. Facing the truth is hard work.

People are more forgiving when they know the truth of their own mistakes & how they have spilled over onto others. Harsh judgements of others give us great comfort. We are so afraid to face our own ugliness inside that it’s a relief to be judgmental of someone else.

Yesterday, the Post Gazette article on this topic reported on Mr.Levin who “co-wrote a study that found people have more empathy for dogs than humans.” We love dogs because they are endlessly forgiving fountains of unconditional love. If we accept our own humanity, we know how hard life can be when we screw up, and we find it easier to forgive others.

So we have to ask ourselves are we going to find our generosity of spirit in Pittsburgh or within ourselves? This is the same city that supported the Pirates who broke .500 after 21 years in 2013. In the last game of our 20th losing season in 2012, A.J. Burnett who “didn’t pitch particularly well” got a standing ovation of appreciation (Post Gazette 10/4/12 Bill Brink). That’s the kind of place we’re proud to be a part of.

Forgiveness is about letting go & moving on. Maybe the Rooneys are more tapped into forgiveness when someone has remorse & has paid their dues. Maybe we could learn a lesson from them.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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