So I'll make this short as it's a painful post to write, and, frankly, I share it because it relates to the way we help kids deal with the complex issue of forgiveness.
I got a message yesterday that hit me straight in the gut. As I read the words, I literally felt sick. I won't reveal those words, but they were certainly straight to the point.
I had hurt someone, not just anyone, but a good friend, not intentionally, but perhaps by 2 counts of careless neglect. I accepted an invitation from a nearby friend, although a tiny voice inside whispered that perhaps I should talk to the faraway friend who might feel excluded. I then proceeded to quell that voice inside somehow and subconsciously decide there was nothing to talk about. Why? Now this is all conjecture because I never allowed myself to think about it..but maybe it was because deep down I was afraid to face a conversation where I might have to hear that someone I care about could be hurt.
This happens all the time with kids: they exclude others without fully realizing what is happening.. and then fail or even refuse to consider how the others might feel... but more about that later..
Of course, this type of avoidance never goes well. Ignoring that wise little voice of intuition is never a good thing. But I did.. perhaps because I'm juggling too many balls, perhaps because I lack confidence in dealing with potential conflicts .... the reason doesn't matter. I screwed up.
And this brings me to the what next.
I sent an apology. I tried to explain (and tried not to defend) my actions or lack thereof. And now I wait, in the gut-wrenching knowledge that I have caused another human being emotional pain, and that this person may decide to never forgive me. And I am so very sad.
And then it dawned on me: It's not in my control. I must wait.. If I keep trying to reach out, perhaps I am not honoring the other person's need for time. Ultimately, I will also have to forgive myself, whether or not the other person does.
This brings me to what we do with kids when they make a mistake that hurts another person.
We often make them apologize, and then we also expect the offended person to accept. What if that person isn't ready to forgive? Do we help kids understand that relationships are a process and that a breach in trust just doesn't go away after the, "I'm sorry?"
Just as adults need time for processing, so do kids. Feelings are a complicated landscape, and so often we make things worse by our own need to tie things up in a nice bow and say we've taken care of it.
I don't know how to make right the wrong. And I'm an adult! Imagine how complicated it is for kids.
I do know this:
I vow to act with more intention and to listen to the sensitive soul inside me who keeps me on track.
I will practice letting go of the outcome; I cannot expect someone to forgive me, but only express my feelings of regret and hope that one day they will believe again.
I will help kids understand that the process of forgiveness is not a clean, simple, linear one and that it's okay if we don't have immediate closure.
Here's a final question for you:
How do you help kids move on when they don't get the result they want?