Bitterness Stories

The Greatest Forger

It was perhaps the greatest hoax in art history. Han van Meegeren was an artist with a grudge. Painting in the Netherlands pre World War 2, critics mercilessly panned his exhibitions. One critic described him as “A gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school, he has every virtue except originality.” Stung, van Meegreen decided to strike back. He painted a work with flourishes of the style of the great Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, titled it “The Supper at Emmaus”, and submitted it to the prominent critic Abraham Bredius. Bredius took the bait, writing that “It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master… And what a picture! We have here a – I am inclined to say the – masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft.”  The art world gasped, the painting was sold for the equivalent of millions of dollars, and displayed in  the Boijmans Gallery in Rotterda.

Han van Meegren planned to expose the forgery at the opening of the Gallery’s 400 Years of European Art exhibition, in which his forgery was given pride of place. His critics would be humiliated and their reputations shattered. Greed, however, got the better of him. Rather than exposing the forgery, he made more, raking in millions more dollars. When the Nazis swept through Europe, he even managed to sell The Supper at Emmaus to them.

This almost proved his undoing.After the war the victorious Allied forces were determined to return the artworks collected by the Nazis to their previous owners. A receipy led two soldiers from the Allied Art Commission to the studio of vm Meegren. They wanted to know from whom van Meegran had bought the artwork. Unwilling to divulge the truth, van Megreen was arrested on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. Confined in prison, facing death, van Megreen had a change of heart. He confessed, but no-one believed him. Experts testified that the work was indeed an original by the Dutch master Vermeer. The only way to prove his innocence was to produce another fake, anfd so he did, spending weeks literally painting for his life!

The final twist to the story is that van Meegren was not only acquitted, but became a national hero, for he had fooled the Nazis, shown them to be the corrupt regime everyone knew they were.

Source: information found in “The forger who fooled the world” The Telegraph, Aug 5, 2006

The Window

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods when his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the outside world.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man said. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every colour of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Unexpectedly, an alien thought entered his head: Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing everything while I never get to see anything ?

It didn’t seem fair. As the thought fermented the man felt ashamed at first. But as the days passed and he missed seeing more sights, his envy eroded into resentment and soon turned him sour. He began to brood and he found himself unable to sleep. He should be by that window – that thought now controlled his life.

Late one night as he lay staring at the ceiling, the man by the window began to cough. He was choking on the fluid in his lungs. The other man watched in the dimly lit room as the struggling man by the window groped for the button to call for help. Listening from across the room he never moved, never pushed his own button which would have brought the nurse running. In less than five minutes the coughing and choking stopped, along with the sound of breathing. Now there was only silence, deathly silence.

The following morning the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths. When she found the lifeless body of the man by the window, she was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take it away — no works, no fuss. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.
Source: Author Unknown.

A Mother Forgives

In June 1973, Marietta Jaeger went camping in Badlands National Park with her husband, Bill, and their five children. As they slept in their tents one night, their seven year-old daughter, Susie, was kidnapped. Marietta suffered all the pain and emotional turmoil you would expect in such a nightmarish situation. In the days immediately following the abduction, she was surrounded by people who talked about the kidnapper in venomous terms, routinely characterizing him as inhuman (even though his identity and gender were still a mystery).

Despite this climate of anger and vengeance, something inside Marietta began to shift as the days of waiting turned into weeks. As reported in the May/June 1998 issue of Health Magazine, Marietta heard a voice. “What Marietta heard was God telling her, ‘I don’t want you to feel this way.’ As she pondered the message, the weight on her chest seemed to lift and her stomach relaxed. She fell into the first deep sleep since Susie vanished.” This was the beginning of her commitment to releasing her anger and finding a path to forgiveness.

One year after the abduction the kidnapper called Marietta’s home. Because she had used the intervening months praying for forgiveness – searching within for the strength to find the humanity buried somewhere within the kidnapper – she was able to convey genuine empathy as she spoke with him. Despite the obvious risks to the kidnapper, Marietta kept him on the phone for more than an hour, ultimately providing the FBI with enough information to locate and capture him. His name was David Meirhofer. He had abducted and killed other children. In FBI custody, he confessed to murdering Susie Jaeger a week after taking her from the family’s tent. A few hours later, he committed suicide.

Given Meirhofer’s horrific revelation, it would be understandable for Marietta to abandon the course of forgiveness. Her husband never let go of his anger and he died of a heart attack at 56 after suffering for years with bleeding ulcers, but Marietta stayed the course. She began travelling around the country to speak with others about forgiveness, sharing her experience. She even befriended the kidnapper’s mother, Eleanor Huckert. “She and Huckert went together to visit the graves of their children,” the Health article concludes. “Afterward, the two mothers sat at the Huckerts’ dining room table sipping coffee and thumbing through old scrapbooks. There was David on the front porch – a rosy-cheeked little boy, scrubbed and eager to set out for his first day of school. As she studied the smiling boy in the snapshot, Marietta felt that her struggle to invest the faceless criminal with humanity was complete. ‘If you remain vindictive, you give the offender another victim,’ she says. ‘Anger, hatred, and resentment would have taken my life as surely as Susie’s life was taken.'”

Source: reported by The Forgiveness Project

Hunting Monkeys

In early 2001 some towns in India were stricken by a plague of monkeys. The monkeys were so numerous they would invade homes, bite people, and make off with food supplies. It was agreed the monkey’s would have to be caught and relocated. The people in these towns resorted to a traditional method for catching them. They gathered their old milk bottles, tied them to the ground, and then placed something sweet such as a lolly inside the bottle. Then when a monkey comes along and sees the sweet he places his hand inside the bottle, but with the sweet enclosed in his palm his fist is too big to get back out the bottle. Our monkey will pull and push in an effort to get that sweet out, but he will not let it go, not even as his captors approach. And so the monkey is caught, literally with his hand in the lolly jar!

Application: Materialism. Although we know Jesus’ warning that materialism is destructive to our souls (and our world!) we find it very difficult to let go of possessions and the need to consume and possess them.

Application: Bitterness, forgiveness: unless we let go of our hurts and bitterness we will become trapped by the past, wanting to move forward yet unable to. Yet this is difficult, as we find it perversely attractive to hold onto our pain and bitterness.

Application: Sin, Temptation: often in life we are like the monkey, presented with an attractive offer, yet knowing that unless we let go of it, it will destroy us.

Source: reported in news stories at the time of the episode occuring.