Quietly murmuring to one another, the class of second-grade students rose from their desks and met with their assigned reading buddies. After discussing where they would read together, they sat criss-cross on the floor and each partner took turns reading. The students were used to reading with an assigned partner and usually they treated each other respectfully. But today, for some reason, Cara joined 2 of her friends instead of reading with her usual partner, Diana. Diana was a kind, quiet girl. She didn’t complain about having been shunned, and sat in a corner of the classroom to read by herself. The teacher quickly realized that Diana didn’t have a reading buddy and she pulled Cara aside to ask why she wasn’t being kind to her buddy Diana. “I just don’t feel like reading with Diana today”, she had replied. The teacher reminded Cara that you don’t always get to read with your best friend (one of their guidelines for buddy reading) and told her to apologize to Diana for leaving her out. The apology was given and accepted, and the rest of the school day proceeded with compliance by all.
But in the above scenario, does the teacher really take into consideration how Diana feels about the forced apology? What if Diana doesn’t care two shakes what Cara says? Her feelings were hurt. She was deeply offended in front of her peers. Why should she be expected to forgive another person for being so shallow? If our moral code tells us that we should forgive others, why is forgiveness so hard?
Somebody wronged me recently. Badly. While I am dying to tell you what happened and how I was totally in the right and didn’t deserve to get mistreated in such a way, I’m not going to give out any details. But believe me, if I did-you’d totally join me in saying that was so unfair! and how dare someone be so rotten! Oh, and it’s not like the offender apologized. She didn’t. She just stomped all over me and left me to take it, then two days later greeted me with a sweet smile like she’d never said a mean thing to me in her life.
I don’t like forgiving people. That sounds horrible to say, but I’m just learning that it’s true. When someone offends me deeply, I have a hard time letting go of my grudge and actually forgiving them. I tell myself, Even though that was unkind of “Jane”, I forgive her for it because I know it’s the right thing to do. But I know I haven’t truly forgiven her because the next time I saw “Jane”, I found myself putting distance between us. Clearly, I am still ticked off enough about what she did that I don’t want to talk to her. And forget about faking a smile to be polite. I have no desire to do that.
Why is forgiveness so hard for me? It should be the only reasonable action. Can I change what happened? No. Can I make “Jane” apologize or change her thinking? No. I can only control my feelings and actions. Although it’s a challenge and our relationship will always have a scar of hurt upon it, when I forgive “Jane”, I make the choice to let go of my angry feelings and move on. In forgiving others, we are really making the choice to be happy.
My pastor said something this past weekend helped me understand a little bit more about forgiveness. He said that forgiveness doesn’t mean that you just walk away and they get away with it. There are still consequences for behavior. If you do me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I invite you over to Thanksgiving dinner. But is does mean that, by forgiving you, I quit letting that define my life.
Life isn’t about finger-pointing or making sure that you are always in the right. Everyone messes up. This may have been “Jane’s” day for making a mistake, but I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself. Although I am scarred and greatly impacted by what she did, I am now wiser and more cautious in my dealings with you. It’s something that I can learn from. And, thankfully, I won’t be affected by this for the rest of my life.
I hope, by my honest and revealing my thought process, that I haven’t lost any of you lovely readers as fans. I think we all have these ugly feelings deep inside. Thank you for letting me write about my feelings and learn from them. And thank you for reading!
I have to give credit and thanks to Pastor Larry Osborne at North Coast Church for sharing his wisdom. The sermon I’m referencing wasn’t on the topic of forgiveness, but forgiveness is mentioned in this video sermon .