If you were to reflect back on your childhood, I bet you could think of someone you never gave yourself the chance to forgive. I can think of a few times someone hurt or scared the pants off of me, yet until this day, I am not sure if I really ever forgave them.
There is one moment, however, when I do remember talking about someone behind their back. I still feel bad about doing that. Could it be because I haven’t forgiven myself?
Recently, one of my daughters had a slew of social media posts (untruths) stated about her. It took months for her to tell her father and I. Just as we were gathering the evidence, the person spreading the rumors sent a text to my daughter apologizing for her actions.
“What do I do, Mom?” my daughter asked.
“You accept her apology, let her know this is never to happen again, wish her a good year, and forgive her,” I said.
And that is exactly what she did.
My daughter has seemed to move on unscathed. Could it be the forgiveness that set her free?
Me on the other hand – I still have my mother bear guard up, keeping a keen eye out for my daughter. Perhaps, I should take my own advice and give myself a little of this forgiveness medicine, not just for the other person, but as a way to free up any residue of guilt for not standing up for my girl in the first place.
Here is the thing I have learned about forgiveness. It isn’t a behavior, it is a feeling. Sure you could encourage your child to say I forgive you, but until they feel it, it may not make much of a difference. That said, forgiveness is a personal and powerful decision to surrender and let go. The question becomes how do you teach it?
One of the simplest ways to teach forgiveness is to tell stories. Stories about situations and feelings you have experienced. When you tell a story, you share a part of yourself that is vulnerable, real, and normal. You share moments when you, too, succumbed to peer pressure as a way to cope with the fear, rejection, or sadness.
My husband has a wonderful story about the day he hugged the woman who struck him with her car and nearly took his life. We laugh as he explains how he had to yell loudly to the woman because she is so hard of hearing. I am not sure if the actual words “I forgive you” came out of his mouth. But in many ways, letting someone know you are okay is no different than giving them permission to go about living their life.
It is through stories that we can illustrate what forgiveness looks like in motion. Forgiveness is a movement from your heart. While your head might say, you really hurt me, your heart says, I am okay, and so are you.