Forgiveness on the Silver Screen

The Place For Forgiveness in Human Relationships
 We Are Social Beings … Relationship is a Primary Need
 We Offend Each Other With Injustices … Putting the
Relationship at Risk
 The Effects of Injustices May Be Repaired Through the Process
of Forgiveness
“The weak can never forgive,
Forgiveness is an attitude of the strong.”
The Themes of Forgiveness
▪ Dealing with Justice
▪ Grieving the Loss
▪ Cancelling the Debt
“To forgive
Is to set a prisoner free
And discover
The prisoner is me.”
Corrie Ten Boom
Some Common Myths
 Forgiving is …
▪ A One -Time Event: It is a process and attitude
▪ Forgetting: It must be remembered
▪ Reconciling: It may not be safe
▪ Absolution: We are not authorized to absolve
▪ Settling: It’s the most creative solution
▪ Ignoring Justice: It must be fair for it to work
“It takes one person to forgive
Two to reconcile.” dk
The Definition of Forgiveness
 First: The injured one is able to recognize an actual
 Second: The injured one chooses to abandon resentment
(to which they are entitled) toward the offender, rather
than respond with justifiable retribution (which the
offender has rightfully earned).
 Third: The injured one cancels the debt which the
offender owes, acknowledging that justice has been
Title: Les Miserables … Victor Hugo’s Stirring Novel of Redemption
 Theme: Dealing with Justice
 Key Dialogue: The Bishop
“Don’t forget … don’t ever forget, you’ve promised to become a new
man. Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil; with
this silver I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give
you back to God”
 Story: He is forgiven and learns to temper justice with mercy and
forgives Javert, an abusive prison guard who becomes a police officer
and haunts him for the entire duration of the story.
Finally Javert, who believes that stark justice is the highest good,
commits suicide because he cannot resolve the conflict created by
Jean Valjean’s unrelenting forgiving attitude and his tempering
justice with mercy.
“The Highest Level of Justice is Justice Tempered with Mercy” Anon
Les Miserables … continued
 Structured Exercise: A Brief Conversation
▪ How is it that the experience of being forgiven was so powerful for
Jean Valjean?
▪ It may not always be wise to tell the offenders that you have
forgiven them. Under what circumstances could this be true?
Comment: Not all who are offered forgiveness accept it.
Credits: Columbia Pictures with Uma Thurman and Liam Neeson (134 min.)
Title: George Wallace
 Theme: The Anatomy of An Apology
 Key Dialogue:
“I hurt you”
“I am sorry”
“I was wrong”
“Will you forgive me?”
 Structured Exercise … a 5 minute conversation
What gave the apology it’s credibility?
How was the congregation so quick to forgive?
Comment: A well structured apology is effective in helping the offended forgive.
Credits: Warner Brothers with Gary Sinise 1997 (178 minutes)
Title: The Interpreter … Forgiveness Rituals In Other Cultures
 Theme: Cancelling the Debt
 Key Dialogue:
 The Ku tribe of Africa end their year of mourning, for a murdered
relative, with “The Drowning Man Trial”
 At dawn, after an all-night party by a river, the killer is bound and
placed in a boat
 With the family of the victim in the boat, he is taken to the middle of
the river and thrown overboard
 The family of the victim have a decision to make: to allow him to
drown, or swim out, untie and save him.
Credits: Universal Pictures with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn 2005 (128 minutes )
The Interpreter … continued
 If they allow him to drown they have their justice to which they are entitled
▪ They continue in mourning for the rest of their lives
▪ They remain in bondage to the killer in anger and resentment
▪ He controls them from his grave
 If they jump overboard and save the drowning killer
▪ They have tempered justice with mercy
▪ They have saved a life instead of taken it
▪ They bring their sorrow to an end
▪ They cancel the debt owed by the killer
▪ They purchase their own freedom from the bondage of resentment
 Structured Exercise: A Small Group Conversation
Our criminal court proceedings are cold and objective … the Ku tribe makes it personal
and subjective … How do these two systems influence a victim’s desire to forgive?
 Comment: If the family allows him to drown they continue to focus on what the
murderer has done; if they save him they shift their focus to what they can do.
Title: A Thousand Acres
 Theme: Justice and Fairness
 Key Dialogue:
Rose: “Jenny, I don’t have any accomplishments. I didn’t make a good life with
Pete. I didn’t see the girls into adulthood. I didn’t keep Jess. I didn’t work the farm –
successfully. I didn’t even get Daddy to know what he did – what it means – all the
people around town talk about how I wrecked it all, three generations on the same
land – great land – Daddy a marvellous farmer and a saint to boot. So – all I have is –
that I saw – what I saw – without being afraid and without turning away and that I
did not forgive the unforgiveable. That is my sole, solitary and only accomplishment.
That’s something isn’t it?”
 Structured Exercise: Forgiving the Unforgiveable
Rose admitted to not having any accomplishments except for one … she
refused to forgive the unforgiveable. What did Rose believe she had accomplished by
not forgiving her father?
Credits: Touchstone Pictures with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange (106 Minutes)
Title: The Merchant of Venice
Theme: Justice vs. Mercy
Key Dialogue:
 Portia: “The quality if mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle
rain from heaven … it is an attribute of God himself, and earthly
power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice.
Therefore Jew, tho’ justice be thy plea consider this, that in the
course of justice, none of us should see salvation: we pray for mercy;
and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of
mercy.” Act IV Scene I
 Structured Exercise: Small Group Conversation
What was Shylock expecting from the law and justice that forgiveness
could not give him?
 Credits: Sony Pictures with Al Pacino and Lynn Collins (131 Minutes)
Title: The Story of Us
Theme: Forgiveness
Key Dialogue:
 They are picking up their children after summer camp and were
about to inform them of the impending separation, but she changed
her mind. They are going to Chow Fung’s for dinner.
 Structured Exercise: A Brief Conversation
Did she forgive him?
How would you know?
 Comment:
You don’t have to use the words “ I forgive you” to tell someone “I
forgive you”
 Credits: Universal Pictures with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer
Title: Ruby Bridges
Theme: Cancelling the Debt
Key Dialogue: Ruby
“Please God, forgive these people, because even if they say
those mean things, they don’t know what they are doing so
you can forgive them. Just like you did those folks a long time
ago, when they said terrible things about you.”
Structured Exercise: Small Group Conversation (5 minutes)
 Did she label the injustice?
 How did she cancel the debt?
 What can we learn from Ruby?
Credits: Walt Disney with Kevin Pollack and Michael Beach (90 minutes)
Title: Fried Green Tomatoes
Theme: Anger
Key Dialogue:
“I have better insurance”
 Structured Exercise: A brief conversation
 We find this clip humorous because it’s the sort of thing we might “feel”
like doing, but never really would. But what do we do in its place? How
does our internal dialogue sound?
 Comment: Forgiving is not usually our first response when we are
offended in traffic. Anger is more common.
 Credits : Universal Studios with Cathy Bates and Jessica Tandy (137 Minutes)
“How much more grievous
Are the consequences of anger
Than the causes of it.”
Marcus Aurelius

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