— Esme Nungaray

Seeking forgiveness is not an easy task. It takes reflection and having the guts to admit that you’re wrong. If you’re on the other side of the forgiveness fence, our feelings of hurt, resentment or anger can make it hard to forgive. But forgiveness comes in many ways, shapes and forms.

Take me for example, and my unwillingness to forgive my AP World History teacher. My senior year of high school I took his class at 8 AM. Half the class struggled to stay awake and words went in one ear and out the other. However, I tried my best to participate as much as possible. Apparently, there is such a thing as TOO MUCH participation and one day he said, “Esme you always talk so I would like for you to refrain from speaking today”. I figured that if he wanted me to refrain from speaking, I should take that message very seriously. Luckily for me, participation was not a part of my grade so I refused to speak in his class –for the 6 weeks we had left in the semester.

Two weeks into my silent protest, my teacher decided to ask for support and called my parents. After listening to my side of the story, mom and dad decided to back me up and let me continue my reign of pettiness. It would’ve been easy to take “the L” for the day, but I was so prideful that it prevented me from solving the problem. It wasn’t the most mature way to handle the situation, but it was a solution nonetheless. Luckily, I’ve come a long way from those days have permanently left my petty crown to rest.

Milwaukee’s Best Storytellers Return

Last month, we heard many individuals share their own “forgiveness” stories at Ex Fabula’s annual ALL-STARS event. Each spring, we bring back the winners of the season’s competitive StorySlams to tell another story. To close out our tenth season (woo!), six storytellers came back to tell over 350 Milwaukeeans about their journeys of dealing with forgiveness.

Rick Karlson opened the show and took us back to his sophomore year of college. All merits in college deserve a celebration and finishing finals was no exception. And like many college students, Karlson took a popular party route: getting wasted. Of course, it was all fun and games until a series of drunk events led him to willingly catch a ride in the back of his friend’s truck. Unfortunately, a harsh stop at a red light caused the lid of the trunk to close completely and left Karlson trapped inside. But drunk Karlson was unbothered by the situation. In fact, he didn’t even realize he was stuck until the next day when he woke up and found himself in the dark box. He was rescued by his friend’s dad, who opened the trunk during his lunch break.

Karlson wasn’t the only one who was making us laugh.The audience had a couple of stories of their own. Through ultrashorts, people were able to tell their own stories of forgiveness and they were quite memorable! One audience member shared with us how seriously her brother took grammar:  “I wrote a letter to my brother and he sent it back corrected in red pen. It took me 5 years before I forgave him”

But of course, it’s easy to forgive the little things. Some actions have deep consequences, and take a lifetime to forgive. One audience member reflected on a poor decision they made: “I have to forgive myself for almost killing a patient while I was on drugs. I have been (clean for) eight years since.” A heavy silence held Turner Hall captive for a moment, before a solemn moment of applause broke through.

“When you’re in the abyss…you’re not always going to get it right”

Our eventual winner also reminded us of how long it can take to forgive. When Jude Treder-Wolf’s friend was diagnosed with cancer, their relationship began to deteriorate. It got so bad that when Jude called with some bad news her friend lashed out, calling Judge a “bad friend.” They didn’t speak again, and her friend passed away soon after. As she was peicing together how it all went wrong, Jude began to loosen her narrative of what had happened, allowing herself to see their friendship through her friend’s eyes. As “when you’re in the abyss…you’re not always going to get it right. You will lash out and make mistakes. But that doesn’t make the love go away. Love and anger can exist side by side.”

Whatever the situation may be, where there is forgiveness, there is also growth. Our journeys are marked by our ability to repair or let go of relationships. Owning up to and learning from your mistakes is what helps you become a better person.

Are you a visual person? Our Facebook page has tons of photos from ALL-STARS. While you’re there, like us to be the first to know when we’ve set dates for Season 11’s StorySlams!