I recently saw the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I wasn’t really expecting to see a story about forgiveness. Of course, I had seen “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” as a child. Many of us have had that pleasure. But did we really know him? As children, we can take enjoyment from puppets, songs, a model train, and guest visitors without knowing how a show is produced or who these people are when cameras are not rolling.
The movie’s plot focused on an interview between Fred Rogers and Lloyd, the journalist. It took its theme way beyond a children’s television show. It honed in on a relationship between father and son where the son was holding on to anger from the past. This prevented them from having a relationship. So many of us may find we have been in situations like this. Now I am not a movie critic; but if I were, this film would get flying colors in my review. After it was over, while I was walking out with my spouse, I turned to him and said “Wow,” with tearful eyes and warm emotions. Then I added, “This movie makes me want to be a better person!”
If this were a critique, that would be my first sentence. And the second sentence would be this: “If everyone could see this movie, I imagine more people would be happier and less angry.” Can you tell it really shook up my heart?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I do want to talk about the ways that this movie made me reassess my own history with relationships, both my own and those of my clients. I started asking myself a lot of questions like, why do we hold on to anger instead of forgiving? Please ponder that question, and look at the benefits versus the assets of letting anger go and moving on. I am not saying to forgive an injustice or wrongdoing if someone hurt you. I know the pain that hurt can bring, but I also know the joy of forgiveness and connection with loved ones.
The New Year is coming soon. It’s a time when a lot of us reassess ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and our communities. We review our triumphs or assets, versus the defeats or personal shortcomings. We usually want to do better, so we make New Year’s resolutions. Why not try forgiveness this year? Put “I will consciously add forgiveness to my list of options in a bad situation” and see how your life improves.
Another theme running through the movie was kindness. We are gently reminded that qualities of kindness, decency, tolerance, and acceptance are so important in all relationships. Even the expression of feelings is crucial to a loving relationship. Sharing feelings with another creates vulnerability and a deeper connection.
In the movie, Lloyd asks Mr. Rogers if he thinks of himself as a hero. The answer (much as you would expect) is “No.”
And yet when you look at the number of children and families touched by the goodness of that show, it is astonishing. The simple act of being kind to children, meeting them at their level, and modeling a gentle and fair way to be an adult—these were radical choices. Yet the man who created those things chose to be modest and avoided self-aggrandizement.
In 2020, let’s remember that we don’t have to aspire to be perfect or “fake” to be loved by others. We just need to be ourselves and incorporate a little kindness and forgiveness. You may be surprised how that affects your relationships. When you change how you respond and behave with others, they are forced to change how they respond to you.
Make forgiveness a resolution you keep in the coming year.