Forgiveness: A gift to give yourself and others
May 22, 2017 11:56AM ● Published by Today's Family
In a family of legendary grudge-holders, forgiveness can be a hard lesson to learn. It’s easy to remember to forgive and forget when you’re talking about the little things, like some silly squabble over who is supposed to be “it” next, or who forgot to ask to use someone’s whatchamacallit. But forgiveness seems so much harder to put that lesson into practice as bigger issues arise.
My daughter is learning this lesson, as she and a group of long-time friends begin to develop new interests and move into different circles of friends. At the start of the year, one friend seemed determined to try to instigate arguments between each girl in their group. When confronted, she first denied it. When caught in a lie, she apologized, and acted remorseful. Meanwhile, the mean-girl activities continued. Eventually, my daughter let her know that those actions weren’t acceptable. My kid refused to play into the drama the girl was trying to create. And like cutting off the oxygen to a flame, the drama was effectively extinguished and that friendship, such as it was, fizzled out. Months later, that same girl is asking to rebuild her friendships with my daughter. While I give the girl credit for trying to make amends, I gave my daughter some unexpected advice.
I told my daughter that it’s very important to forgive her former friend, even if she hasn’t asked for it. It’s important to forgive her and not to keep a record of the wrongs. I explained that forgiveness is a very important gift, but not for the reasons you may think. Forgiveness is a more personal thing. It’s something we all need to do, in spite of whether or not the person who “wronged” us ever apologizes. It’s a gift we give ourselves, not them; it helps us get past our anger and move forward. Holding on to those bad feelings won’t impact the other person, it only takes away our own joy, and that of those around us.
Please don’t misunderstand -- forgiveness doesn’t excuse whatever bad thing has happened. And forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean restoration. Trust was damaged and will take time to restore, if that’s what everyone is committed to working toward. I hope that my daughter and her friends can work through this situation and rebuild their once-close friendship. But if they can’t, that’s okay, too.
I recently read that forgiveness is tough, since the human heart is wired for justice. This is true for me –– it bothers me to see good people lose, and bad guys prosper. But as much as it pains me to admit it, justice isn’t mine to dole out. It’s easy to feel justified in our hurt and anger, but we can’t stay there. It’s not productive, and it’s not healthy. We each must choose to forgive, even when it hasn’t been asked of us.
As a girl, if I ever complained about something not being fair, my dad always reminded me that no one promised that life would be fair. We may all want to live in the Disney version where good conquers evil, and everyone gets a happily ever after. And sometimes that happens, and it’s cause for rejoicing. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t, and we need to be okay with that outcome, too.
In this season of graduations and new beginnings, I think it’s important to arm our children –– and ourselves, for that matter –– with the ability to forgive. It’s a gift of transformation; one of the best gifts we can offer to ourselves and to those we love.