Monday, June 28, 2010

The Opposite of Blame

Long ago, before liability lawyers made it impossible to admit you made a mistake and news outlets learned that laying blame on people was good for ratings, there was a thing called “forgiveness.” Evidence of this is all over television. Heroes get revenge. Forgiveness is seen as weak. This may be because forgiveness is easy to understand but can be hard to exercise, particularly if the person who did the wronging was acting intentionally.

I set up a situation like this in my upcoming book Quads, when my narrator Sarah Conrad finds her roommate Marnie reading her diary and preparing to post parts of it on the internet. Sarah is furious, horrified and humiliated. But Marnie, having read Sarah’s true feelings about her, also feels wronged. They argue, then Marnie storms off into the night – very close to the dorm curfew.

Sarah struggles with two feelings. On one hand, she wouldn’t mind if Marnie, who is already in trouble at school, missed the curfew. But she also worries that Marnie might be expelled is she breaks curfew. Sarah asks a few friends what they think. They agree that Sarah should let Marnie hang herself. After an emotional struggle, Sarah decides to go against her friend’s recommendation and go out looking for Marnie.

Along the way Sarah realizes that she's going to have to learn to forgive Marnie and start over. At first, Sarah has no idea where to start. Marnie is snobby, impetuous, self-oriented, whiny and dishonest. But Sarah realizes that she has overlooked Marnie’s playfulness, talent with odd things like knitting and that Marnie genuinely wants to make friends. Sarah begins to change her mindset on Marnie and learns about a skill of her own. Sarah leans that she has a capacity for forgiveness.

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