“Be A Goldfish”
One of my new favorite tv shows, is a show is called “Ted Lasso.” It is about an American football coach, Ted Lasso, who is hired to coach an English soccer team. Ted is quirky, insightful, and often annoyingly optimistic. In one episode after a particularly difficult match, Ted sees one of his young players on the sidelines looking rather despondent. Sensing the young man is beating himself up about his performance on the field, he asks this question, “Do you know what the happiest animal on earth is?” The player nods no indicating he does not have an answer to the question Ted has proposed. To which Ted responds, “It’s a goldfish. Do you know why? It’s only got a 10-second memory.”
When I first heard this line, I laughed knowingly at the message Ted was trying to get across to his player. Yet, there is a depth of wisdom in this message that goes beyond a humorous quip. This simple statement reminds me of something we would find in the wisdom literature of the Bible and even within the sayings of Jesus himself. A message all of us, as people of faith, would do well to remember and practice.
As people of the Christian faith, we claim to be people who believe in and live out the teachings of Jesus Christ. One core meta-message of Christ is rooted in forgiveness. Strangely enough, this is one element of faith I find churches struggle with the most.
The church is a human institution filled with people being, well, simply people. In the church, people do and say things that can cause stress, strain, and hurt feelings. In the church, people make mistakes. In the church, people, because they are not goldfish, have long memories. In the church, people think they can remember all details of what has been said or done in unarguable detail. In the church, people insist forgetting is not part of the forgiveness equation.
While we might not forget, the retelling of an offense does not move us to forgiveness. The retelling of past offenses can be helpful for awareness and redirection of what we want to do better the next time. It is not helpful when we only seek to do more harm. When our retelling intends to point to how others messed up, true forgiveness and healing cannot emerge.
Yes, as humans we have been created to have longer memories than other creatures. But we also have the intellect and reasoning abilities to make choices. We can choose what we think and what we believe. We can choose to hold on to the past mistakes of others. We can choose to hold on to the pain. We can choose to hold on to our grudges. We can choose to be stuck in a moment, not moving forward.
I believe God wants something bigger and better for us. I believe one of the reasons Jesus taught about forgiveness is he knew the freedom it can bring. Forgiveness offers us a release of the stories we have been telling ourselves in which we are the victims; wounds we have been nursing; anger, bitterness, and resentment we have been holding on to; and the blame we have placed at the feet of others. Forgiveness frees us to move forward, embracing what is, and receiving the gifts of new opportunities. Imagine the forgiveness that would be possible if we only allowed ourselves a 10-second memory to dwell upon or ruminate about things that did not go well. Imagine if we were more like goldfish.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister