By Alan Bean
Genuine forgiveness feels a lot like open heart surgery; but without it, we’re lost.
To celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, Nancy and I went to Les Miserables, a musical I had never seen before. Nor have I read the 1500 page novel, although I’ve been hearing references to it all my life. Unavoidably,the movie presents an impossibly compressed version of the original story line. But they got the theme right: forgiveness.
Early in the story, Jean Valjean is paroled after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. But for repeated escape attempts he would have been released much earlier. Unable to find work, Valjean comes under the care of Bishop Myriel, a compassionate cleric whose deeds of kindness have earned him the informal title “Monseigneur Bienvenu”. Unable to sleep on a comfortable bed, the restless Valjean steals the Bishop’s silver and flees into the night, only to be captured and hauled back to the Bishop in chains for identification.
Myriel tells the gendarmes that his guest received the silver as a gift. In fact, he was also given two silver candlesticks that he neglected to take with him. When the two men are alone, Myriel tells Valjean to use the silver to become an honest man. Overwhelmed with this display of unwarranted forgiveness, Valjean is transformed. (more…)