THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS
I grew up in Plymouth in northern Indiana and have been a Chicago Cubs fan since I was a young boy. But one of my favorite players of all time was Yogi Berra.
Berra won three most valuable player awards during his 17 seasons with the New York Yankees. But he was perhaps known best for his making unintentionally funny remarks. Some of his Yogi-isms-include the following:
- “If you can’t imitate him don’t copy him.”
- “Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
- “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be”
- “You can’t observe a lot by watching.”
- “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
- “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
- Then there is the most famous Yogi-ism: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
When Berra’s playing days were over he tried his hand at managing. Three times he was told, “It’s over.” His most painful firing was in 1985. The new owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner had assured him he would manage the whole season. Instead Steinbrenner fired him after only
16 games. The worst part was Steinbrenner didn’t even talk to Berra face to face. He sent an underling to deliver the bad news.
Berra was easy-going and genial but he resolved he would never talk to Steinbrenner again. “It was unforgivable”, he wrote later. For 14 years he never went to Yankee Stadium. He refused special awards. He turned down Old Timer’s Games. His friends pleaded with him to change his mind. “Never!”
Then something changed. In January of 1999, Steinbrenner flew to Florida to meet with Yogi and offer a personal apology for his behavior. But Berra refused him. His son Dale pointed out to him that Yogi’s grandchildren had never been to Yankee Stadium with him.
Berra relented. He and Steinbrenner met for 15 minutes. George admitted to Yogi that it was the worst mistake he had ever made in baseball. Berra chose to forgive him. And over the next decade until Steinbrenner’s death in 2010 Yogi and George became the best of friends.
We may think for reasons of pride and principle that we can never forgive that person that hurt us. But don’t close the door. Give God space to work. Even just wanting to forgive someone, if only we could, is a wonderful first step.
It never is too late to release a grudge. It is healing.
As Yogi put it, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
Chaplain Ron Naylor