Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Child Will Lead Them

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. –Luke 23:34

Sometimes we come face to face with forgiveness in all its raw demand, and powerful promise. In 1960, Ruby Bridges was escorted by federal marshals to her first grade class. She was the only black student sent to integrate an all white school in New Orleans. People saw her mouth moving as she walked, so tiny inside the circle of towering marshals, through the raging crowd screaming every vile thing you can imagine at her. Later, when asked what she was saying, she said that she was praying, praying that she would be strong and not afraid, and praying for God to forgive the people in the crowd because they didn’t know what they were doing. Ruby was six years old.

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.

What do children know about forgiveness that we’ve forgotten?

How many petty affronts (real or imagined) have I held onto long past the expiration date? Perhaps holding an image of little Ruby in my mind will help me let go. Instead of forgiving those who have wronged me, perhaps I should ask for forgiveness for holding onto my righteous arrogance. Please, God, forgive me, because I don’t know what I’m doing.

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. Watching my grandkids play is a lesson in patience and forgiveness. They will fight over a toy for a few minutes, realize that mommy will not be happy, and instantly start sharing. The slights or anger is almost immediately gone.

    Just having them in the room with adults makes us more conscious of our attitudes and demeanor. Their spontaneous joy is contagious.

  2. Yes, many times I have apologized to my children. We don't hesitate to apologize to adults, but it is sometimes easy to overlook children.

  3. You can tell how fast my life is flying by. 1960 for Ruby Bridges.... seems like yesterday. Yes, children need apologies too. Beautiful little people.

  4. Hey Galen, I think you are right when it comes to children! They will say " I am sorry faster than an adult! They tend to have more forgiveness more than adult! As for an adult, they take days in order for them to forgive an individual! I agree!

  5. Recently I apologized to my kids for an outburst of anger. They were taking way too long at the department store and we had a plane to catch. My sister overheard my outburst and said to me, "Never apologize to your children." We all sort of laughed the whole thing off eventually. But your post has me thinking... Maybe it was okay to apologize. I did explain the reason for my anger and that getting to the airport with plenty of time was important to me... thanks for making me think about this.

  6. Bob--It is amazing, isn't it, how children don't let anger and unforgiveness get in the way of fun! Thanks for your comment.

    JJ--I've done my share of apologizing, too! Thanks for commenting.

    Manzanita--Yes, I grew up in the South, and I remember scenes like this one. So sad. Thanks for your comment.

    Tyler--Children are smarter than adults in this regard, for sure. Thank you for your comment.

    mbcoudal--Well, speaking for myself only, I found that an appropriate apology taught my kids to take responsibility for their own behavior, because they saw that I was willing to take responsibility for mine. It also taught them that they were not at fault for my behavior. Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Hi Galen,
    When I first read your words, my thought is what about forgiving our inner child? How many times have I felt "less than" toward the inner being that holds fear, or immaturity, or would just like fun for a bit..and what freedom in forgiveness...and the flip side is do I say thank you to that inner child as she creates and blossoms and trusts me to guide..

  8. Galen why not pray for both? You mentioned "Instead of forgiving those who have wronged me, perhaps I should ask for forgiveness for holding onto my righteous arrogance", can we as human beings not forgive and be forgiven? I prefer to walk down a two way street vs. down a one way dead end path.

    I love the honesty and loving, forgiving ways of children. It makes my heart dance to spend time with wee ones, those who haven't had their world view tainted by society or worse yet, by negative home environments. Kids do say the darnedest things, they haven't mastered the art of deceit yet.

  9. Irecently have been working on what exactly forgiveness is -- quite honestly a result of marriage melt-down (on both our sides). Many thoughts were resonant but one thought kept leaping at me: it isn't that we can't forgive. It is that we choose not to forgive because not forgiving gives us a reason (excuse?) to place a barrier that is practically impenetrable between the other person and ourself. That wide margin of safety (of non-forgiving) is just another barrier that we use to protect our selves. When I decided to really forgive -- (in my situation), I decided that the supposed risk of removing barriers was worth it. If I risk all and, indeed, am not myself forgiven, then I know in my heart of hearts that I have done everything I know to heal this rift and try to make life at its best. I have to first forgive myself and lead with a good heart.
    Thank you so much for your thought-provoking comments. Cathie

  10. Joy--Indeed, loving and forgiving ourselves (inner child/teen/adult!) is the first step. Thanks for commenting.

    darlin--Excellent change from "Instead of asking for forgiveness," to "In addition to asking for forgiveness." Thanks for that suggestion--a great improvement!

    Cathie--Very insightful. Our reluctance to forgive does create barriers, barriers which we think will protect us from the pain and vulnerability we don't want to feel. But they only serve to isolate us and reinforce our fear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Galen,
    There is so much we have to unlearn and kids are often the ones to show us the way. I grew up in the deep South and as a child I could never understand and reconcile the racial hatred with the pious religiosity I found in my family.

  12. Hi Galen,
    Forgiveness is all that we can do. We cannot control other people's behaviors so Forgiving works for me.

    It's cute to see little kids fight/argue over their grievances and then quickly hug, forgive and forget the whole episode.

  13. Insightful! Inspirational!
    Thanks, Galen.

  14. Riley--I grew up in the South, too, in Memphis, so I know what you're talking about. Thanks for commenting.

    Justin--Right. It's what we can control--ourlseves. Thanks for your comment.

    Lion--Thanks! And thanks for commenting.

  15. This was a great post on forgiveness. If we could be more like children who forgive more easily; the world would be a better place.
    I have worked on this quality for years; but still have moments when I hope on to a grudge for a while. I am doing better; maybe that comes with age. It is a commandment to forgive others so that we might be forgiven.
    I am a work in progress on this subject.
    Blessings to you!

  16. LeAnn--Yes, the Bible is very clear. So the question becomes, how to do it? Hope you'll share more of your views this month. Thanks for commenting.

  17. I have often marvelled about this capacity of forgiveness they have, and also apologized more than once...

  18. Hi Galen.....Great post on forgiveness...I, too, have situations where forgiveness has been a problem. I still have many lessons to learn in this lifetime.



  19. Hi Galen,

    Children has a natural ability to be in the moment. To not forgive is to hold on to the past. And most children are focused in the here and now. So they can fight one moment and forgive the next. Most certainly, children can teach us a lot about forgiveness. Thanks for a lovely post!

  20. Beliza--Me, too! Thanks for your comment.

    Jo--It is a challenge. Seems like if it's so important, we should have more instructions! Thanks for commenting.

    Evelyn--Thanks for pointing out the connection between kids' ability to forgive and being in the present moment. That is a significant relation I had not seen before. Many thanks!

  21. Maybe my desire to learn to forgive is partly because my nonforgiveness has become to heavy to carry anymore. I can feel the nonforgiveness physically in me and it is hurting, too, as I learn and recognize my many years of stubborn hate. I have a lot to forgive but I also have to learn to forgive me. Not good at that either. Maybe nonforgiveness is held on to because you feel high on the horse of righteousness and it's hard to climb down. I feel awkward changing my ways after I have done the same thing for 40 years. I hope I can get off that horse and as soon as possible!! I've been praying alot lately and reading the Bible and asking for Answers and he sent me this blog. I humbly thank you. My annie

  22. Anonymous (Is your name Annie? I wasn't sure.)--Unforgiveness is a heavy burden indeed. If my words have even opened up the willingness for you to consider forgiveness for others and for yourself, then we are both blessed by your prayer. I hope you will keep reading this month as we continue to focus on forgiveness and share your thoughts. God's peace to you.

  23. Hi all - I left my email address because the blogs always ask for my name and URL. I don't know what a URL is or where to look for it so I didn't have any choice but to use anonymous. :) If anyone could tell me where to find my URL I would be a grateful soul. :) I just started blogging and reading the most beautiful things!

  24. Anonymous--I don't see your email here, so I hope you read this response! I am still learning myself about lots of blog technology, so hang in there! If you will email me (use the box in the sidebar, I'll see if I can help you. I'm so glad you stopped by and I hope you will again. Good luck!


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