Something unusual caught my eye on Facebook the other day, it was a post stating that Alanis Morissette is backing Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 30 day Forgiveness Challenge. At first I thought I’d read the headline wrong, but closer inspection confirmed my initial reading. Why would rock n roll Alanis Morissette back a campaign with Desmond Tutu?
As we all know, Alanis is famous for her 1995 hit single “You Oughta Know” which is about an acrimonious break up with her boyfriend. One thing I’ve always admired about her is her honesty in both her lyrics and in her public life; she has the ability to air her thoughts in a revealing and restorative manner. I too can attest to the need to think through and order my thoughts on various situations through the process of songwriting; there is something very cathartic and healing about letting go and accepting where I am. However, Alanis’ latest response to this creative process made me think…
“I naively thought that the writing of a song could provide healing, but I quickly came to see that regardless of how many nights I would sing ‘You Oughta Know’ over and over again on stage, that the real healing came from actual relationships and communication.” Alanis Morissette, 2014
A bold admission considering the song made her a household name and helped sell 33 million copies of Jagged Little Pill. Through admitting her mistake and making her journey into forgiveness public, she has undoubtedly encouraged and helped many people to experience the same forgiveness and healing. I found her statement very moving as she was prepared to be an “open book” and declare that what she had intended as a public declaration of anger hadn’t fulfilled or healed her. Alanis has stated that up until that point she found songwriting cathartic but it didn’t offer her any healing and that this eventually pushed her to discover where forgiveness begins: with acceptance of each other. In being honest, she has taken responsibility for her former emotions and taken her listeners on a journey that helps them to grow and mature.
The song that she hoped would hurt and seek revenge became part of Alanis’ journey into freedom; she thought her story ended with pain but through time it ended with something very beautiful, absolution and a chance to become a more rounded person. An inspirational tale, it gives us hope that whatever our circumstances are, something good can come out of it if we are prepared to wait and make changes in our lives.