My child has figured out that there’s no winning in forgiveness. I was hoping we could have put that off a little longer, like the Santa Claus and birds-and-bees talks, but no. It turns out that these days they’re teaching empathy at school, so when someone, say, teases you, you can get mad and you can get hurt, but you are also supposed to try to figure out what’s going on with them that would make them do that thing to you. And then, if you live in our house, you also have to work on forgiving them.
I realize there are adults who could stand to learn this lesson, adults like me, for example. I also realize that forgiveness is pretty much the cornerstone of what Jesus had to say. And I believe that the only way families and marriages and societies survive with spontaneously combusting on a bad day is by the power and practice of forgiveness.
Still, it’s a hard lesson for at least one nine-year-old I know. Because she now also realizes that the onus of forgiveness lies with the one who got hurt. It’s so NOT FAIR, as she would say. Yes, I would say, it is so not fair. There’s no guarantee that when you forgive someone they won’t turn around the next day and be mean or hurtful again. The hurt person has to become the bigger person and dig up some empathy and work on staying in relationship with that other person, even if “staying in relationship” means not pouring water all over their diorama and not tripping them when they walk by. It’s the elementary school version of reconciliation. But it’s a start.
I believe this lesson about forgiveness will come in handy one day, when she has to forgive me for something truly awful that I’ve done, as opposed to the unpardonable sins of giving her the mom look in church or embarrassing her in front of her friends by saying hello. It may also come in handy some day – and the lesson may actually stick – some day when I forgive her for something awful that she did. Because I suspect that day is coming, and in the less than distant future.
So we’ll work on the injustice of forgiveness. Maybe I’ll learn something, too.