second chances

Do You Believe in Second Chances?

Lord of the RingsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Long after I finished reading the books and watching the movies, the character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy I couldn’t stop thinking about wasn’t any of the plucky hobbits, Viggo Mortensen’s ruggedly handsome Aragorn, or Gandolf with his words of wisdom.

It was Gollum.

Born a hobbit-like creature named Sméagol, Gollum wasn’t always the shriveled, conniving wretch we meet in Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t until Sméagol was in his thirties that Sméagol’s friend Déagol found the powerful ring that Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring would later seek to destroy. Overcome by lust for the ring, Sméagol killed Déagol and took it for himself.

The ring prolonged Sméagol’s life, but began to corrupt him until his family finally cast him out. From that point on, he lived alone in the dark caves of the Misty Mountains, eating raw fish. Déagol’s death haunted him.

When Frodo learned about Gollum, he said, “What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!” (Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 78).

“Pity!” Gandalf answered. “It was Pity that stayed his hand.”

Gandalf believed that everyone deserves a second chance—a chance at redemption. He went on to tell Frodo that even Gollum wasn’t wholly ruined: “I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it…My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many” (79).

Gandalf’s words stuck with Frodo.

Later, when Frodo showed him kindness, the Sméagol side of Gollum’s personality found the strength to fight against the Gollum side. What good was left in him tried to drive out the evil. Frodo’s kindness gave him a second chance.

Sam couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see past the disgusting parts of Gollum to take into account what he’d been through—isolation, torture in Mordor, the clutches of a ring that ruined all who carried it. He refused to try to see what Gollum might become if given a second chance.

When I first met Lynn* in elementary school, all I saw was a girl who disliked me for no reason. She seemed to take pleasure in embarrassing me in particular, and it seemed to me, in my ten-year-old wisdom, that she thought she was better than the other students. I found her annoying and wanted nothing to do with her.

When I should have been Frodo, I was Sam.

I didn’t bother to find out her true story, her past and her struggles.

When she disappeared in high school, I didn’t even notice. I cared as little for her as Sam did for Gollum and would have gladly left her behind in my past. When she came back during our senior year, she wanted to be my friend.

Second chances are tricky things. You could get your finger bitten off the way Frodo eventually did. Every second chance comes with another opportunity to experience the pain you did the first time.

I was hesitant, skeptical. But, to borrow from Gandalf, my heart told me that she might still have a role to play in my life.

Years later, we stood up in each other’s weddings. We joke now about back when we didn’t like each other and talk about who disliked whom most. And we laugh.

But if I hadn’t given her a second chance, I would have missed the trips we’ve taken, times we’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, good advice exchanged, secrets shared (and kept). I would have missed out on knowing a woman who’s now one of my dearest friends and who I admire for her strength, her grace, and her faith.

For me, the chance to get exactly what I did was worth the risk of giving her that second chance.

Has there ever been a time you decided to give someone a second chance and were glad you did? Do you believe in second chances?

*Lynn isn’t her real name. I’ve changed it to protect her privacy.

*Thanks for reading this blast from the past while I recover from my trip. Even though this post is a re-run, I’d still love it if you’d leave a comment.

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The Fine Line Between Forgiveness and Accountability

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’m going to admit up front that I haven’t been a huge fan of the Transformers franchise. I loved Transformers as a child, but I felt the first of the more recent movies was okay, and then the second two went downhill from there.

So I went into Transformers: Age of Extinction (movie #4) not expecting much. I only went because my husband loves the special effects and REALLY wanted to see them on the big screen.

And then I had to eat crow. Nicely roasted and basted with a raspberry-chipotle sauce of course, but crow nonetheless.

It wasn’t a perfect movie—far from it—but the dialogue made me laugh (in a good way), and I found myself drawn in by a new wrinkle. Optimus Prime was fed up with humanity and was tired of waiting for them to change.

Gone was the sacrifice-for-the-humans-at-any-cost Optimus from the past movies. He’d been disappointed and betrayed one too many times, and all he wanted to do was collect up the surviving Autobots and leave Earth for good.

Cade Yeager, the inventor and single father who is trying to help the Autobots, begs Optimus to give humanity a second chance. He claimed that screwing up is part of what humanity does. It’s what makes us human.

On one level, I agreed with Cade. Humans make mistakes, and we should be willing to forgive people for those mistakes. We should give second chances.

On another level, I disagreed because it sounded like Cade was arguing we should not only always forgive those who make mistakes but that we should continue to help them indefinitely, no matter how many times they make the same mistake and no matter how much we’re hurt by that mistake.

It’s the line between forgiveness (which I believe should always be extended) and allowing someone to walk all over you, never holding them accountable for their actions.

I know that the Transformers couldn’t hold humanity accountable or there wouldn’t have been a movie, but Cade’s answer felt trite. So many of the Transformers had been wrongly slaughtered, despite all they’d done in the past to save humanity. A “we’re humans and we make mistakes” reply didn’t cut it for me. And I had to wonder, is that how our society really feels now? Is there no place left for justice and accountability? Are we really expected to give infinite chances?

I believe mercy needs to be balanced with justice, and help needs to be balanced with accountability.

What do you think? Am I right or wrong? Is this how our society views mistakes, wrongs, and accountability now?

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