Celebrity chef Paula Deen has had a rough month. Falling from grace due to accusations (and admissions) of using racial slurs and some poor judgement in what she's asked her African-American staff to do, the 'aw shucks' southern cook continues to feel the heat. No word on whether or not she's gotten out of the kitchen.
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner is now running for mayor of New York City, despite having resigned his seat from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 after his sexual proclivities with women (while married) were made public. Now, in the midst of his mayoral campaign, he's been caught again, or should I say his sexual alter-ego Carlos Danger has.
Racist chefs, sexually dangerous politicians, media scrutiny, public dismay -- these aren't good things, obviously. Both of the aforementioned people have faced harsh judgement from many, including myself. I don't much care for what both Paula Deen and Anthony Weiner have admitted to doing. Deen comes off as a bit racist, while Weiner comes off as a bit of a scuzz-bucket.
Through all of this, not just the scandals of Deen and Weiner, but of Mark Sanford, George Zimmerman and others, I've oscillated between discouragement and forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness. It's a difficult concept to grapple with. I have trouble with it often, but view it as something to try and strive for. There are, however, many questions that arise when it comes to forgiveness.
Is the undertaking to forgive sincere? Does to forgive mean to forget? Can you successfully forgive while not forgetting? At what point is forgiveness not an option? How egregious must the actions or words be in order to be unforgivable? How soon is too soon to forgive? Does the ability (or lack thereof) to forgive say more about the person who has trespassed, or about ourselves?
I dunno. People are complicated. If you're religious, you'll say that we sin. Those of us who are more secular tend to use the term 'make mistakes.' Regardless, none of us perfect. And most of us are multi-faceted. To think of someone as just one thing -- racist, adulterer, etc. -- is to do humanity a disservice. We don't have to like, approve of, or celebrate everything that everyone does, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should write them off.
Would I buy a product from Paula Deen, make one of her recipes, or dine at her restaurant? Would I -- assuming I lived in NYC -- vote for Anthony Weiner for mayor? I don't know. That may seem odd to some who are blessed with greater certainty, but there you go. We're imperfect people seeking, almost demanding, perfection from others. Perhaps realizing that is the first step toward forgiveness?