Have you ever felt like making amends is too easy? I have. Of course, I don’t usually feel like I get off easy when I have to confess and make restitution for a wrong I have done. I want it to be easy then, but when it’s someone else … that’s another issue. When it’s someone else, I tend to think, however wrong the thought may be, that gaining forgiveness should range in difficulty based on the wrong committed.
In a recent episode of Bones titled “The Truth in the Myth,” Jeffersonian Institution intern Vincent Nigel-Murray (Ryan Cartwright) seeks to make amends with his colleagues in order to complete the ninth of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 steps toward recovery. His chief sins against them? Spreading various rumors about his relationships with them, and urinating in Dr. Hodgins’ (TJ Thyne) tadpole tank. His efforts to make amends are met with different responses. Angela (Michaela Conlin) dismisses his behavior due to his drunkenness at the time. Cam (Tamara Taylor) all but sticks her fingers in her ears in an effort to keep from hearing what wrongs Mr. Nigel-Murray has committed against her, especially after hearing about the tadpole tank. (Wouldn’t you?) And Dr. Brennan (Emily Deschanel) laughed when he confessed to spreading a rumor about a romantic relationship between them. She asserted that his friends must be very gullible to believe something she claimed was so ludicrous.
In some ways, each of these responses felt unrealistic to me. I’ve never met anyone who essentially did not care one way or another whether someone was spreading rumors about him or her. In a realistic situation of making amends, Mr. Nigel-Murray would likely have had to overcome far more anger and hurt from his colleagues.
There was one more confession and one more response in the episode. In addition to the whole tadpole tank/urinal incident, one of Mr. Nigel-Murray’s romantic rumors also involved Dr. Hodgins’ wife, Angela. When Mr. Nigel-Murray spoke to Dr. Hodgins about this, Dr. Hodgins assured him that all was fine and forgiven and then proceeded to prank Mr. Nigel-Murray, albeit good-naturedly. Unfortunately, it was in this response that I saw my own tendencies most clearly, and my response is not always as good-natured. Often it seems I speak the words of forgiveness without fully letting go of the wrong done to me and the pain that accompanies it. The issue is not that I don’t want to forgive. The simple truth is that the words of forgiveness are so much easier than the work of forgiveness—but the work must be done.
I don’t get to complicate forgiveness, and that’s a good thing because I’d never survive my own unwritten philosophy on the subject. I don’t get to decide who I forgive or for which wrongs I forgive them. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness of our own sins as we forgive the sins of others against us. Ephesians 4 further admonishes us to forgive each other as God has forgiven us in Christ. Both passages make clear that there is a connection between our personal experience of forgiveness and the forgiveness we extend to those who have wronged us.
Let’s not cheat ourselves (or the people who have wronged us) out of the opportunity to live life to its fullest just so we won’t have to let go of our anger. It’s just not worth it.
Rachel Decker writes a biweekly column about television for RELEVANT magazine. Check out her blog at http://racheldeckerspeaks.com.