To forgive - to let things go, to harbor no resentment, to hold no bitterness, to be willing to heal the past and start all over again – these are all easier said than done. We maintain a grudge towards somebody because it is difficult for us to forgive. We replay the event, what one said, what one did to fan our flame of hatred alive. However, once we find it in our heart to forgive, we feel a sense of relief as though we emptied the sack of rocks we have been carrying on our backs.
To a child, asking for forgiveness comes easy. Forgiving us for our faults even comes easier. Let me tell the story of forgiveness shown by a five year old. Vanessa, 5 years old, was disturbing the lesson and encouraged her classmates not to listen to me while I was conducting a group activity prior to recess. Vanessa and I had enjoyed a good working relationship. I saw her behavior as doubly hurtful because not only was she not listening, she also tried to convince others to do the same. I stopped the lesson and firmly told her that I did not like what she was doing. I asked her, “How would you feel if I told your friends not to listen to you while you are talking to them?”
She was silent. I could see from her face that she got the message. She knew that she displeased her teacher. I continued the group activity then led the group to the playground for their outdoor play period. Vanessa came to me with three found things in her hands: a rock, a bent plastic nail and two broken pieces of a seashell. She gave them to me one by one. She showed how the two pieces of seashell can be held together to form the original whole shell. She did not say a word. I accepted her gifts and hugged her. That was enough for her. With a smile she skipped to the swing and played with her classmates.
Although Vanessa picked these things off the ground with no special thought as to their significance or symbolism, I was touched by her peace offering. To take action soon after the event meant that she really cared. She did not want bad blood between us to linger on after sundown. I did not expect her to do anything to patch up things, but she felt it was necessary to do something. She did something concrete. Her wordless apology said more than if she merely said, “I’m sorry.”
I laid the objects on my desk. When the children left for the day I looked at them and somehow found the objects held a deeper significance for me. Together, the objects made this statement: “Although my actions bent our relationship out of shape (the bent plastic nail), it can be put back together (two broken pieces of a seashell) because our relationship stands firm and solid as a rock (rock).”
Indeed, the nail can be straightened out and the shell pieces can be glued back together to make a whole. The rock stands firm undisturbed. If a child can forgive us as she asks forgiveness, so can we. I learned a few lessons from this incident:
1. It is more important to restore our positive relationship than to harbor ill feelings due to a misunder-standing or a misheard word or misinterpreted action or our need to be right. Our friendship or our relationship as family members is more important than maintaining a strained relationship.
3. What caused the strained relationship was an unfortunate event. It takes humility to acknowledge that we played a role in it although we feel like blaming the other party for everything.
4. It takes courage to take action to make things whole again. It takes more energy to maintain bitterness than to let go of the memory of past events. Which way would you like to go?
5. Sometimes words are hard to come by to say “I’m sorry” so bringing flowers as token of our apology comes in handy.
6. With a contrite heart, we resolve not to do the same faulty action again.
7. Once things are restored to the state before the misunderstanding, energy that has been spent in anger, hatred, blaming can now be utilized for helping others and caring for the environment. Channels for receiving and sharing blessings formerly blocked will be opened. Once again the river of peace flows where once stood a stagnant pond.
Forgive your enemies, forgive others, forgive yourself. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” Trust your cares to God’s wheel of justice because God’s wheel is slow but sure. Perfect justice rules the world.