I see Miracles

When wrong is right

By LISA GONSALVES
Posted 12/23/20

I began this year with unsubstantiated optimism: 2020, The Year We See Things Clearly.

With 2020 coming to a close, I can see where I could have been very wrong about that. Of late, reality …

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I see Miracles

When wrong is right

Posted

I began this year with unsubstantiated optimism: 2020, The Year We See Things Clearly.

With 2020 coming to a close, I can see where I could have been very wrong about that. Of late, reality appears to be a blur of things real, unreal and absolutely surreal. Media is guaranteed to magnify social turbulence, shaking things up so much it can be difficult to focus on what is most important. My great hope is that when the dust settles, what is most important is all we really notice: family, friends, love. Where the future is yet unclear, there is no better time to question everything than the end of a year heavily weighted with emotional gravity. Seeking to understand more, I am questioning myself. I am examining what the year has taught me and what I am accountable to. (This is an uncomfortable task.) Where, when and how have I been naughty or nice?

In a year brimming with challenged assumptions, blame still flies and everything is someone else’s fault. Human beings are especially creative at making unlimited excuses for errors before they are willing to own them. We go to great lengths to protect our egos by hiding our wrongdoing, a special skill we learn early on. Since not everyone can be right, perhaps we can admit everyone is at least partly wrong. After all, up until the very moment they began to compete for the same job, Donald and Hilary were basically besties, but no one wants to talk about that.

The real truth is that being wrong is typically no big deal. Most sins are readily forgivable merely by admitting them. The ability to see one’s own mistakes can uncover astounding personal transformations. Charles Dickens and Dr. Seuss made compelling arguments to this end. “The Christmas Carol” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” are fantastical tales. Nonetheless, they are classics because of how they make us feel, for real. In empathetic jubilance, the audience emotionally shares that elation of revelation of the antagonizing and agonizing protagonists (say that three times fast)! These are not revenge stories. There is no comeuppance. No one grovels, and no one has to hear, “I told you so.” In fact, nobody gets punished at all. These powerful tales of reform resonate strongly perhaps because we survive their shame along with them, unscathed, relieved and renewed. Simply put, these heroes were able to see themselves through a new lens to determine, “I can do better.” They did, and everyone was better for it. Having been wrong proved a power of its own.

Admittedly, I’ve not found it easy in the past to admit my mistakes, let alone see them. But it’s never too late to learn new things, and practice makes perfect. I recently discovered that blind spots can easily obstruct the view directly in front of us, like a hand so up in your face you can’t discern it until you pull it far back enough away to see what it is. I couldn’t see as far as my own block when a recent exchange with my nearest neighbor revealed more than I could imagine (notably, that I had been wrong). We had always been neighborly enough, but I had thought he was a bit crazy. Now I know he’s not crazy but mostly angry, and with due cause. I think he’d be crazy if he weren’t angry. Perspective and perception can change everything. For the better! Not only has shallow neighborliness grown to sincere reverence, but innumerable similarities between us have also come to light. I was also wrong to have assumed we had little common ground. Where once was a neighbor, I now see a friend. Not to mention, the benefits gained when neighbors are allies afford priceless future gifts unseen, especially when compared to a menacing neighbor. Like in Whoville, where they really know the difference.

As a very young child, my son revealed something more to me in these Christmas characters when he said, “You see, Mommy? They weren’t really bad after all.” From the mouths of babes. People and things can start good, get bad, get worse and still end great. While the wheel of fortune is ever turning, forgiveness can happen at any time. When we forgive ourselves, miracles occur. Reaching those miracles, however, may cost us the price of admitting where we have been wrong. That can feel painful, but it is certainly worth the price for liberation. Plus, coming clean can feel great! For Ebenezer and the Grinch, a shift in attitude made kings of curmudgeons. Maybe it really can be that easy. There is no shame in saying, “I can do better.” A warm greeting to a new neighbor may make you a friend. Nothing wrong with that. In the holiday season of this most exhausting year, that may be the greatest gift ever.

optimism, 2020

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