Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Child Will Lead Them

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness since I realized that I rarely write about it (The F Word). Forgiveness seems like such a good idea. It is certainly a central idea in the Bible. And in A Course in Miracles. And in psychology. And in 12 step programs. It is central to Amish culture (From the Ashes).

People read thousands of books about it, spend years in therapy to be able to give it or receive it, beg for it, pray for it, marvel at it, long for it, fear it. Most everyone agrees that forgiveness is a good thing. I say most everyone because I read an article by someone who was not very keen on forgiveness. He thought that some people should not be forgiven. For example, he would withhold forgiveness from someone who expresses no remorse. Or someone who is a repeat offender. Or who does something so horrible that forgiveness is out of the question.

However, in reading his rationale, I believe that he confuses forgiveness with reconciliation, or self-protection, or trivialization – all focused on the wrongdoer. But forgiveness isn’t about the forgiven; it’s about the forgiver. Withholding forgiveness separates us, which inevitably results in fear, which in turn is often masked as judgment. It is, in another paraphrase of the familiar wisdom, like drinking rat poison hoping the rat will die.

Well, goshdarnit, if withholding forgiveness is so toxic, and forgiving is so beneficial, why is it so hard to do? Hmm, now that I think about it, it seems that children have a much easier time of it. Have you ever apologized to a child? “Sorry, honey, I forgot,” or “I should not have said that,” or “I’ll make it up to you.” How quickly did the child respond with forgiveness? The younger the child, it seems the more quickly he forgives. I’ve watched kids playing together when one child does something mean, then after a moment (which may or may not include an apology), the play goes right on, while the wrong that I would have nursed a grudge over for months is apparently shrugged off.

So what do children know about forgiveness that we’ve forgotten?

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling all together, and a little child will lead them. –Isaiah 11:6

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard the rat poison analogy before. That is a good one. How often we do that in so many situations...


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