Friday, December 26, 2008

Remembering Ebenezer

In an earlier post, I started to share my feelings about a much-maligned man. Granted, he's a fictional character; still, it really bothers me how we treat his memory.

That man, of course, is Ebenezer Scrooge. His name is synonymous with avarice, selfishness, and a loathing of Christmas. This is, in my mind, a great injustice. While it is entirely true that for much of his life, Scrooge was indeed the person most people associate with his name, it is also true that he became the antithesis of his former self.

In the closing lines of the book, Charles Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge as follows:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Why is it then, that instead of remembering Scrooge as this kind, loving, generous human being who enriched so many people's lives, we choose to remember him for his sins and misdeeds? Why do we selfishly expect others to overlook our own faults and shortcomings, yet we cling so desperately to the judgments we make of others?

It seems to me the height of irony that we have entirely missed the point of A Christmas Carol. The message is one of redemption, hope, and new beginnings. Isn't that the whole point of Christmas? We celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ to the world, and through Him, the opportunity to become new creatures.

Who among us, upon coming to grips with the wretched people that we are, does not wish to erase the past and become better than we were? Indeed, everything in this life depends upon an ongoing recognizance that we are flawed, and have a constant need to make changes and amends. Furthermore, we desperately hope that others will forgive us our trespasses and allow us to become the people we ought to be.

Why then, do we find it so difficult to refuse others the opportunity we so desperately long for ourselves? Why do we insist on remembering people as they were for their shortcomings, and not for the people they become?

I think that secretly, all of us possess some degree of self-loathing. We see our own imperfections, compare ourselves with our potential, and judge ourselves lacking. It is far easier to perpetually condemn those who have stumbled and righted themselves, than it is to correct our own faults. How much simpler it is to look down upon the embittered, hateful old man Ebenezer Scrooge used to be and say to ourselves, “I'm so much better than he is. I love Christmas, and would never treat others as cruelly as he does.” If, however, we accept the new and improved Ebenezer Scrooge and compare ourselves to him, the truth is a terrible one to face. The man he became is far more generous and loving than we are. If we allow Scrooge to change, in comparison, we are the greedy, unloving, uncaring ones.

It is our own insecurities, then, that cause us to remember the sinner in his former state and not his current one. Seeing those who have successfully overcome the evil tendencies with which we all struggle, often serves as a reminder to us of our own inadequacies. Instead of inspiring us to change, our pride refuses to allow us to see the malefactor in his state of rebirth and transformation. As long as we see others for the awful people they used to be, we can continue to live under the insidious, false pretext that the abysmal us is somehow better than our new and improved neighbor. As long as we've conned ourselves into thinking that we're somehow better than the awful person another used to be, then we're still a “good person” who has no need to change.

This Christmas, it is my hope that we may show others the same mercy and forgiveness we so desperately wish for ourselves. May we see the repentant sinner and be inspired to follow his example, and allow him the opportunity to change and be forgiven. May we hear the name Ebenezer Scrooge and remember him as the wonderful, charitable soul he became, and not the sad, shell of a man he was before. Most importantly, may we remember it is precisely because of Christmas, that come judgment day, we can likewise be looked upon with mercy and forgiveness, and judged—not for who we used to be—but who we became through the merits, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ.


Heidi Ashworth said...

Hey, I have a whole lot more than two cents to give but I left it in my other pants. I'll be back.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Okay, I'm back. With change. You have written a very though provoking post. Mostly, I keep thinking, what about the Grinch? He has been treated exactly the same. And I do mean, exactly. In fact, he is my preferred villian turned hero to vilify. I plan to repent forthwith.

James said...

I have thought long and hard about the Grinch. It's certainly true that he has changed, and I think we should cut him some slack as well. Although...even though he returned everything he had stolen, no mention is made of him being the most generous being(?) in Whoville at Christmas time. So maybe he's not quite at the same level as Scrooge. Still, he wasn't the same Grinch at the end of the story as he was at the beginning. I vote we give him a break.

charrette said...

You make an excellent point here. I think when we ourselves refuse to acknowledge change in another's life, in essence attempting to trap them in their former selves, we deny the very Being who makes that change possible...the very essence of Christmas, and Christianity. I'm on an "Up with Scrooge" campaign, starting right now.

Thanks for your comment on the Bloggers Annex.

Rebecca said...

Amen. You are so very right. (Don't you love hearing that?)

I think that's why "A Christmas Carol" is my favorite movie to watch at Christmastime. It's all about redemption. The spirits could have left him alone, but didn't. They could see that there was someone worth saving. By saving Scrooge, many people were loved and saved. It goes right along with Christmas, and the Savior's redemption of us. No one should ever be cast aside as a lost cause.

Jeni said...

Well said. I hope you continue to write. I am enjoying your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

It's the name. SCROOGE. You can't even say that name out loud without glaring a little bit. If the character's name had been Featherwinkle or Sweetums, I would have a much easier time associating him with pleasant things. As it is though, he's stuck with a bad rep. Poor guy. Same thing goes for the Grinch. It's all the name.

Heather of the EO said...

I love what Charrette said. I always love what Charrette says. So I'll just say ditto :)

LexiconLuvr said...

Kudos to you! Not only for recognizing and accepting the change in another person (regardless of said person being fictional)but promoting that change.
Where would any of us be without the saving grace of forgiveness?
And as for the Grinch, well, his heart did grow "10 sizes that day." I dare say, he's as reformed and enlightened as any person/fuzzy thing can be.
Happy Holidays!
L.T. Elliot

Christine said...

I have an Uncle (so does Heidi) who treated people as if they were the person they had the potential to become. His teenage grandson said that about him at his funeral. What a way to be! He did not wait for a person to change or repent before treating them this way.

LisAway said...

I love the idea of this post, and how it is expressed. It reminds me a little of comparing our strengths with others' weaknesses.

Also agree with the comments. Including Nurturingnarcissism. I think we need a Scrooge character to remind us of what we don't want to be. Unfortunately I know of no similar character that DID NOT change. Maybe we can call the old Scrooge "Scrooge" and the improved one Ebeneezer? Or maybe "Mean Old Scrooge" and "Good Old Ebeneezer?" But I suppose your point is that nobody ever refers to the latter, only to the former. Hmmmm.

LexiconLuvr said...

*Shame, shame, burning up my face*

I have a correction to add to my comment of old. The Grinch's heart only grew 3 sizes that day. (It was 10 sizes too small) But if I had my way, it would have grown ten sizes.

And you can be sure, I'll be laying off both Scrooge and Grinchy from here on out!