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GUEST COLUMN: Forgiveness, can you imagine?

Monica Sheppard

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

I’m surprised I’ve made it this long without a reference to the hit Broadway show, “Hamilton: An American Musical,” showing up in my column. If you have not listened to the soundtrack about 1,000 times, you clearly need a smart teenager in your life. I think I can recite it in my sleep, though the lyrics are so fast-paced I get many of them wrong. My kid will attest to that.

The show is the genius creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, written after a vacation read of Ron Chernow’s biography, “Alexander Hamilton.” It is the tale of the immigration and life of the American founding father who wrote the majority of The Federalist Papers promoting the ratification of the Constitution; was the first Secretary of the Treasury, therefore responsible for most of George Washington’s economic policies; and had an affair on his wife.

The title above is a reference to one of my favorite moments in the musical. Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth, have lost their first son in a duel. The song “It’s Quiet Uptown” relates how their lives and relationship are changing as they grieve this crushing and unimaginable loss. That key line appears throughout the song referencing his attempt to forgive himself, his wife’s gracious forgiveness for him, and imploring the community to forgive his very public and career-ruining transgression.

Can you imagine? Hamilton is far from being the only leader of a great country to have succumbed to such temptation; that is not really the story that I want to focus on here. What I want to consider is the reminder to forgive in the most unforgiveable circumstances; to muster pardon when it seems most impossible.

We have much to forgive each other for, these days. We know way too much about way too many people and we are way too angry about way too many things that we give way too much credit for ruining our lives.

Can we take a deep breath for a moment and consider letting the small stuff go?

It is easy for me to say, not always so easy to do. When I find myself lying awake at night running over the details of some transgression I have committed (most likely) or a slight I imagine in another (less likely) it is a breathe of great relief when the words, “Forgiveness, can you imagine?” slip into the picture.

In full disclosure, I will admit that my Christian beliefs stand behind my concept of forgiveness, in spite of a few of my so-called cohorts’ best efforts to forget that policy in social media, etc. However, the benefits and argument for forgiveness go way beyond any spiritual construct.

A friend of mine recently posted a really great TED Ed video that reminded me that part of the reason we struggle with forgiveness is the fact that we are often giving ourselves way too much credit.

It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is the observation of Cornell professor David Dunning and graduate assistant Justin Krueger that people who are ignorant or unskilled in an area tend to believe that they are more proficient than they are. In other words, the less we know on a subject, the more likely we are to assume some working knowledge of it. Bad drivers are statistically more likely to consider themselves good drivers, while good drivers are more likely to point out how many mistakes they can make.

We can all sing as well as Adele in the shower.

It is a complicated, yet simple, concept on human nature. I encourage you to google it and learn more about the study. In the video, we are reminded of the old proverb, “When arguing with a fool, first make sure that the other person isn’t doing the same thing.” Hmmm. So, maybe to avoid getting so mad at each other, we should be studying up on how much we still have to learn?

Maybe your song of choice on the matter is “Let It Go” from the Disney hit, “Frozen,” or any other number of songs that mention the idea of remembering we are all human and in need of forgiveness. Whatever your reminder might be, just know that I will be over here trying to imagine forgiveness for myself and others while singing about it poorly in the shower.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.