The Thing I Like About …

My Name Is Earl: the one where he can’t take his kids to the fun park.

Having catalogued everything he did wrong – and everything he failed to do right – Earl wanders the earth with list in hand, struggling to make amends for all of it. On the list is a time when he promised to take the kids to a fun park, but ended up going to a concert instead. So he decides to take the kids to the fun park now … only to find that it no longer exists.

“Now I can never make up for it!” he laments. But the kids just shrug and say, “Well, maybe it’s okay if we just forgive you.”

They accepted that he was sorry, and that he had done everything he could to make amends. They loved him anyway … and so Earl was obliged to accept their forgiveness without having done anything – particularly – to earn it. He just had to live with the fact that he had made a mistake that hurt someone, and that there was nothing he could do about it now … and that none of that mattered to the people who had been hurt by it.

It’s so hard to forgive ourselves. It’s so hard to accept others’ forgiveness. So we spend our entire lives beating ourselves up over things that probably weren’t that horrifying in the first place, and ruining the present and the future in addition to the past. But if Earl really wants to make it up to the kids that he wasn’t there for in the past, then he has to let that past go, and be the kind of dad now that he had intended to be in the first place. He can’t do that if he’s beating himself up over things. He can’t even do that if he keeps struggling to “make amends” at a non-existent fun park. He can only do that by accepting their forgiveness – the same way they accepted his apology.

He’ll just have to live with their forgiveness … because he can’t go back in time and do it differently, and because their forgiveness is enough. It’s enough. And we’ll just have to live with that too – because we can’t go back in time and do things differently, and because, if the thing we wanted was for the people we hurt to be okay again, then their forgiveness isn’t just “enough” but is in fact the only thing that matters.

Forgive. Be forgiven. Forget whatever it was. Then go find a fun park that’s still open and enjoy the present.

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