Forgivness Is Underated
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom,I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”Nelson Mandela
We were about to start dinner, and I couldn't find my daughter.
She was in the kitchen five minutes earlier, but when it was time to eat, she disappeared. Naturally, I quizzed her brother,
"Do you know where Ellie went?""Yeah" he replied, "she ran down to the creek to throw a rock away."
Ah. Rock throwing was becoming a habit.
A couple of times a day one of the kids took a rock and walked the short distance to a creek where they would chuck the stone as far as possible. The behavior was symbolic of something important, so I figured our dinner could wait for Ellie's return.
The habit started two weeks ago when my kids talked about forgiveness in their small groups at church. Their leaders discussed how damaging it is to hold onto anger and to let bitterness grow. They compared "holding a grudge" to "holding a rock" that you voluntarily carry everywhere. Eventually, the weight of the rock becomes annoying, weighs you down, and affects everything. Mostly it impacts their freedom.
To recognize this truth, the kids were given a bag of "forgiveness rocks" and challenged to take a stone out of the bag whenever they felt wronged. Then, when they were tired of carrying the rock, they were told to throw it someplace where they would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER find it. Like ever.
After all, forgiveness is an extravagant act, so you should make a HUGE throw.
Over two weeks, I was curious about how often the kids went to the rock bag. My daughter only made it a few hours between trips to the creek. One day, I watched my son carry a stone for an afternoon before he was willing to throw it away. The pile of rocks vanished fast.
Is there THAT much disappointment and aggravation in their lives?
Maybe they just like walking back and forth to the creek. Or perhaps they weren't sure they threw the rocks far enough past "ever." One night at dinner we talked about all of the things we need to forgive. The examples came out quickly and most fell into one of these 10 categories:
- Unkind words
- Hogging the dog
- Name calling
- Breaking Legos
- Feeling ignored
- Being excluded
- Not listening well
- Enduring mocking
- Not sharing toys
Aside from substituting "Legos" with "electronics," I was surprised how much the kids' list overlapped with mine. The things that trouble us at 9 and 11 are often just as troubling at 39 or 41 (or later!).
As much as we tell our kids to acknowledge, forgive, and move on from those who hurt them, I realized I have to model this for them as well. In fact, what I really want to do is follow my kids' lead and head down to the creek often and bring my best throwing arm.