Charleston on Being Resilient and La La Land

 Charleston on Being Resilient and La La Land

“It is hard. Life is hard. The losses, the sudden arrival of illness, the struggles within families, the pressure of a world trying to find a reason to hope. Spirituality that is sugar is no help in such a reality. Feel good philosophy cannot withstand the weight of what many of us have had to face. If it is to endure the gale force winds of chance, faith must be deeply rooted, anchored in trust, strengthened by courage, able to bend but never break. So here is a prayer for all of you living in the real world: may you find your faith as tough as you are and as resilient as the love that keeps you going.” Steven Charleston


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I think of the end of 2017 Academy awards when Warren Beatty couldn’t understand what was in the envelope to announce the best picture of the year and handed the confusing envelope to Faye Dunaway who saw the name “La La Land” and announced that movie as the winner. They had been given the wrong envelope! It was the one announcing Emma Stone as best actress from “La La Land” that had been reported earlier. The producers and cast of “La La Land” were so excited and came up and thanked so many people. Men with headsets scurried on stage and handed Jordan Horowitz, one of the ‘La La Land” producers the correct envelope as he announces, “I’m sorry, No. There’s a mistake. “Moonlight”, you guys won best picture!”

  I will always remember the grace at which Horowitz gave up his Oscar. His whole team on stage, his dream suddenly crushed, years of hoping to win, his Oscar, now being handed over to another movie producer before a live television audience in front of millions of people. Later Horowitz said to Adele Romanski, a “Moonlight” producer, “I got to give a speech and then give you an award!”

When I think of resilience, I will remember and tell his story. I think of all the mistakes I have been involved in, taking my family, particularly my husband for granted, failing to speak to a patient’s family because I was too busy; all the mistakes I fear, reading the wrong gospel, preaching the wrong lessons, not chanting well, running out of bread at the Eucharist, forgetting to visit someone who then dies; all the frustration dreams of going to take a test for a class I had not attended or studied for. Knowing that a time-honored institution such as the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers can make such a mistake somehow helps me forgive myself for my own failings. This firm which has overseen the Oscar ballots for eighty-three years also was gracious, making amends for their mistake, apologizing for their human error.  Human errors are part of the human condition. Forgiveness and making amends are at the heart of resilience.

When spiritual friends ask about forgiveness, we always return to Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s outstanding book, The Book of Forgiving, where they also talk about forgiving yourself by admitting your mistake, making amends as those in 12-step recovery do.  We now have role models who have forgiven others for great injustices such as Nelson Mandela in South Africa who forgive his captors for his 18 years in prison. We have the Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania who forgave the gunman who killed five of their children and critically wounded five others on October 2, 2006. Forgiveness and amends can transform guilt and shame and anger and revenge and resentment into resilience.