Forgiveness and the Count of Monte Cristo
- January 16, 2020
- Posted by: Nancy Moelk
- Category: Blog
(From Change Management for the Soul: Volume 1 by Dr. Nancy Moelk)
Being forgiven and forgiving others is a source of satisfaction to our soul.
My family was into “revenge.” I grew up hearing stories about people taking revenge on others or plotting the best way to get revenge. Forgiveness was a word never uttered. I remember trying to say I was sorry, and my mother telling me it wasn’t good enough. Past offenses were a popular topic of discussion. Many of our family meals would blow up into arguments over present or past disputes. I never knew the satisfaction of what it felt like to be forgiven or to forgive others.
On my walk home from school, I would pass a house with a fish pond in the backyard. Once I discovered it, I would stop by and admire the colorful fish swimming happily about. I took my friend, Anita, with me one day to see the pond. To show off, I put my hand in the water. A woman came out of the house and told us to leave the fish alone. I was furious at the thought of no longer being able to enjoy the fish pond. Anita and I ran down the driveway, and my quick little brain was already plotting revenge. At the end of the driveway were a few flowers planted on the edge. I furiously ground my heel into one of them, relishing in my tiny act of revenge.
I bragged about the retribution I had visited on the woman to Anita as we ran home. It comforted my hurt to know I had returned hurt on the woman who owned the pond. But this provided me with only momentary satisfaction. As I walked in the door to my house, my mother was waiting for me in a rage. The neighbor had called and let my mother know about my “revenge.”
“Go back there and tell that lady you are sorry. Now.”
I walked as slowly as I could, retracing my steps, dreading the moment I had to face the neighbor lady and say the shaming, ineffective words, “I’m sorry.” I was expecting humiliation and scorn and wondering if she would feel as comfortable hitting me as my mother. When I arrived at the house, I knocked on the door and could barely dare to look up. The woman opened the door, and I blurted out, “I’m sorry.”
At that moment, I lost all courage and began to cry as I awaited whatever uncomfortable words or actions would happen next. The woman reached out and took my hand and brought me into her kitchen. She sat me on her lap and proceeded to hold me while I cried. When I calmed down, she said, “I forgive you.”
It was one of the most wonderous and satisfying moments of my childhood. I am still deeply touched when I think about it. It gave me a little sip of the satisfaction that comes from being forgiven.
Coming to know that satisfaction in our lives is a significant factor in our being able to extend forgiveness to others. Forgiving others also provides another type of satisfaction to the soul.
Many years ago, I read “The Count of Monte Cristo”, a classic story of elaborate revenge written by Alexander Dumas. By the end of the novel, the count has effectively punished everyone who hurt him. Some are dead, some are ruined, some are forsaken by him. The theme appeals to our demand for justice, since this storyline is often repeated in other books and movies. It was automatically a favorite of mine, no surprise! Having my beliefs in this area being brought around to God’s way of thinking has been a process.
Having so enjoyed the book, in 2002, I went alone to see a film version of the Count of Monte Cristo. But at the end of the movie, the director had modified the ending and the count forgives his former fiancée. It was a surprise to me, since I knew the original version. But suddenly, I felt the Presence of God in the theater and saw the beauty and satisfaction of forgiveness. I began to cry softly and whisper over and over, “Forgiveness is better. Forgiveness is a better way.” And in that moment, I understood more deeply than ever where God is coming from when He made the decision to make forgiveness a possibility. I saw why mercy triumphs over justice!
Where so much of religion is “sin” focused, God is “person” focused. Religious people like to home in on important beliefs and behaviors to keep score, constantly calculating their own and others’ progress toward their religious ideals or standard of “perfection.” People like religion because it keeps them in charge of whatever they’re hoping to get out of it. They are uncomfortable with the lack of control that comes from accepting a gift from Someone who is quite uncontrollable and depending on His goodness, rather than on their own understanding. And yet this is the key to much satisfaction in life!
In the next chapter, we will look at the balance between what is right and what is loving. Sometimes the rules are broken, even by God, in order to love someone.
God went through a process, becoming human and experiencing the Cross, to come to a place of satisfaction.
- Have you ever considered how satisfied it makes God feel to forgive you and have a relationship with you?
- From what you have learned in this section, is your opinion of God changing? If so, how?