The Family Historian

Family History | Forgiveness for the Dead Versus for the Living

August 15, 2011
Vincenzo, Teresa, Anna (Annie), and Salvatore (Charles) Pace

BYU Education Week offers over 1,000 classes on hundreds of topics each year on campus for anyone over the age of 14.  From 8am to 9pm you can choose hour-long classes from The Arts; The Scriptures; Church History; Communication; Dance and Exercise; Education; Family and Marriage; Family History; Finance; Gospel Topics; Health and Fitness; History, Government, and Political Science; Home Management; Human Relations; Law; Leadership; Literature; Missionary Work; Music; Parenting; Prophets; Psychology; Self-Improvement; Single Parenting; and Youth Classes!  Folks come from all over the world to attend this event.

It’s one of my favorite times of year.  Since my first time attending in 2005, I’ve never missed a year.  I try to attend every day, all day, and by the end of the week I am a walking zombie with a brain and heart over full.

I’ll try to share a little bit of what I walk away with every day this week.

Vincenzo, Teresa, Anna (Annie), and Salvatore (Charles) Pace

Vincenzo, Teresa, Anna (Annie), and Salvatore (Charles) Pace | Photo Credits Unknown

Day 1:  Family History and Genealogy

All of the classes I attended today had to do with Writing a Family History and Genealogy.  During one of the classes I was examining my feelings about my ancestors, my fascination with them, with “death” and the other side, preserving the truthful stories of our ancestors, and of ourselves.  As a result, I wrote this during one of the class breaks:

For an unknown reason, many of us have an obsession with ages and peoples past.  We tend to elevate our ancestors to saintly levels.  We’ve decided their mere graduation of this life made them glorious (and maybe this is partly true?).  And when we uncover their misdeeds, we find them fascinating, rather than judge them.  The idea of forgiving them does not even come to mind.

What would be our place in forgiving them?  Their actions had nothing to do with us, we unconsciously decide.

Yet, we’ve decided that our living loved ones somehow personally offend us with their misdeeds (or our perception of a misdeed).

Why can’t we offer our living loved ones the same notion that we have no place, nor power to forgive them?  Not because we are unforgiving, but because we have nothing to forgive them of.  The misdeeds of others are never about us – just as the misdeeds of our ancestors of ages past had nothing to do with us.  I wish we, as a society, could understand and embrace this better.

Rather than a distant study of human behavior, we choose to make another’s actions about us, and therefore, we become personally offended because we choose to let it affect us.

Of course, there are appropriate occasions to seek and to offer forgiveness – but these don’t include liberal consumers’ of ‘sorry’s’, trolling for apologies for someone else’s every day life choices.

Somehow we find it easier to view our ancestors lives in context, and see the clues of why they were the way they were, which leads us to a place of compassion for them – for the good, the bad, the ugly.

Somehow, we, as a society, are not able to do that for the living.

What do you think?  Are we too easily offended?  Are we ‘Sorry Trolls’?

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  • Reply rita maria August 15, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    this was thoughtful and sensitive. something to think about…thank you.


  • Reply Forgiveness Part II | Infertility | and a Jewish Scholar - Angela DiGiovanni August 16, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    […] interesting that I posted yesterday on forgiving loved ones after my mind ran wild during a class on how to write your family history… because today, I […]

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