and then she hauled off and whacked him good.
I bet it felt really good too. At least to her. He had been bugging her all day...as is his way...and she had had it up to here.
I didn't see it coming. The hitting. I had heard rumors on other days and heard scuffles in other rooms but if it had happened before, it was out of my sight. People would get a lecture as I looked down my proverbial nose and shook my verbal finger. But you know, I didn't see those incidents happen. Everything was dealt with after the fact. And honestly, it is easier to deal with minor stuff that way.
This, right in front of me, had to be dealt with. Now.
So I do the drill. (and here, dear reader, you get a front row judgment seat in our court o justice)
"HEY...what just happened here?"
the brother sits stunned
the sister finds many multiple things to stare at that are everywhere but in my general direction
"did you just hit your brother?"
the silence, is deafening...tap tap helllloooo is this thing on???
"did. you. just. hit. your. brother?"
a slight upward motion of the head
sigh. "what has happened that you think it is ok to smack your brother?"
"he was messin with my Belle doll and he wouldn't stop" sniff, sniff...
innocent indignance jumps in..."I was just making her do flying leaps off the coffee table, we were having fun"
I address him first...
"have we talked before about being a bully? about how if you are the only one laughing then that is not playing...that is bullying..."
"so, were you treating her with love and respect?"
"then you were wrong. what do you need to do?"
"uh-not do it anymore?"
"yes...but wait a minute"
now I talk to her...
"I know brother was seriously bugging you but when you hit him were you treating him with love and respect?"
"would you like it if someone hit you because you were doing something they didn't like?"
"does it show that you love your brother if you hit him?"
"what do you need to do?"
"I'm sorry" she mumbles to the floor.
"It's ok" he grumbles.
And there it comes to a screeching halt.
"stop. wait a minute. this is not ok. it is not ok that she hit you. it is not ok that you were messing with her stuff when she told you to stop. this situation is not ok and saying sorry doesn't make it ok."
they both blink at me now.
"I do want you to forgive each other. That is very important. But it might not happen right here and now. Maybe you need some time to think. We will come back to this. But I want you to know it is not ok to treat each other like this."
and we go on.
We haven't revisited it yet. They may have forgotten it.
Or have they? Kids have a way of bringing stuff back up at the strangest times. I am just gonna see how this plays out.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well, (you knew I had a reason)
I am exploring a little something in myself. A little something I have a little trouble with.
A little something I like to call forgiveness.
I would swear on my bottom dollar that I have had no trouble with forgiveness. In fact, I was always the kid that would get upset and then calm down and be the first to forget what I was upset about. I was also the kid that could just brush things off. Didn't let it bother me.
Chose to pick my battles.
Easy going. Peacemaker. People pleasing. Passive aggressive. Stuffer.
uh yeah. it's a slippery slope people.
ok, let's back up a bit.
I grew up with the teaching that if someone did something bad to you they would say "sorry" (usually) and you would say "that's ok" and you would hug or whatever and that was it.
Now, sometimes they would not say sorry.
But you still had an obligation to forgive them. If they came back to you later and said "sorry" you could say something magnanimous like "it's ok, all forgotten" or "pshaw, I don't even know what you're talking about" or "hey, we all make mistakes". You might hug, or cry, or whatever...
Today I am just here to say bull puckey to all that.
I am here to confess that I never meant it. Not one time.
When you said "sorry" to me and I said "ok" to you I was lying.
I never once forgave any of you losers.
I thought I did. Does that make it any better?
I didn't plan your untimely demise. Well....ok maybe sometimes I did.
But I didn't put a hit out on ya.
I just took the not okay-ness and stuffed in a dark interior corner (somewhere near my appendix) and forgot about it.
I just went on with life.
Then one year all that stuffed stuff decided to take a little party trip to ulcerville . For those of you who have never taken that trip, let me tell ya, it's a hoot.
Nice girls gone crazy and willing to bare her emotional headlights for just a couple of anger shooters and a promise of fame. woohoo!
When stuff that you have stuffed starts unstuffing you might want to run for cover. And if you are particularly responsible you might warn your loved ones. In a pinch I guess you could yell
Heads up people.
There might be crying...and yelling. Cuz when you realize that all those "ok'd" things are not ok you are gonna feel really ripped off. You are going to start looking for some doorsteps to lay blame on. You are going to feel victimized and brutalized and then you are gonna feel pissed off.
And well you should. You didn't deserve any of that.
It was not ok. It is not ok.
It has not become ok over time nor will it proceed to ok if you don't address it.
But it is there. It doesn't go away. So what are you gonna do about it?
Well I don't know. I am not your counselor. I am not even your advisor. I do not have this figured out. I just know that I am just now learning to identify that my life has been filled with not ok things. I am learning to identify them and call them what they are.
And that, feels good.
So, maybe you too have identified some places that are not ok...and not forgiven. You know you need to forgive. All the health professionals will agree. I am not a health professional. Nor do I play one on tv...I, like you, am just a schmo who needs to learn to forgive or die a shriveled old prune.
Nobody wants that.
I need to know how to go from not ok to forgiveness.
At this point I don't even know the difference between the two. Let's explore that a bit.
OK means fixed. Over. All right. It means that what you did is excusable. Not as big a deal as we thought it was. Certainly retrievable. Retractable.
OK sometimes means that my feelings in the matter don't matter...or are put aside for the greater good.
The greater good being...your feelings.
Yeah...I'm sitting here thinkin....that really RIPS!
Seriously, I am awwllll worked up about this.
How come your feelings get to trump mine? Why do I have to make nice and put a cap on this situation when you were the one that did the wrong?
What's it gonna hurt you to say the sorry? If you don't mean it then it is just a word. If you do mean it then it might sting a little to say it but you deserve a little sting.
You wronged me and you should bear the brunt of it. You should feel some of the hurt.
Why do I, as the wronged one, have to alleviate your pain with my forgiveness?
Be honest here...isn't that the way you were trained?
What would have happened if your sister said "I'm sorry" and you crossed your arms and turned away??
I thought so.
Such an act would not have a passed unnoticed.
Mom woulda been on you like a duck on a junebug.
"now what do you say?"
"I for...give youuuu..."
"See! now isn't that all better? Everything is ok now."
here's me sticking out my mental tongue. nyaaaaaaa!
(for a kid...sticking out the tongue is kinda like flippin the bird...they just don't know it yet)
It's not ok!!! My arm still hurts. My feelings are still bruised and I want to poke you in the eye.
But I forgave you so it has to be all done.
This situation is not over.
Just like sorry can be just a word...forgive can be nothing more than a word. You can mean it or not. Thing is, true forgiveness is way more than just a moment on the audible spectrum. I believe that forgiveness really comes when we realize that what has happened is not ok and we are choosing to do something about it.
We choose to be no longer passive, letting the unfairness of the situation take our power.
We decide that we will act for freedom. Both for ourselves and for the one who harmed us.
In choosing forgiveness we free ourselves from the weight of hate.
In giving forgiveness we free others from the weight of our hurt.
Sometimes, and I want you to listen carefully here, it takes more effort to drop a weight than it does to carry it.
We have to realize that forgiveness is not a word, it is an action. Seriously, think about it. I can say "I am jumping now" and I can think it, wish it, decide it, faith it, and fake it all I want but unless I put my butt in gear and put some umph behind it, I aint leaving the ground. Same goes for forgiveness. It is going to take some physical effort on your part to make it happen.
Don't get me wrong, God can (and does) do miracles in the forgiveness department. He has ways, that guy. But generally you are gonna have to put some kind of effort into forgiving. And I believe that to develop the muscles it takes you are going to have to do some major reps. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and...to be translated...I forgive and I forgive and I forgive and I forgive.
(maybe Jesus wasn't talking about 70 different transgressions but the same one being forgiven over and over and over and over and over...) (Matthew 18)
Oh my goodness...this is the first time I have ever thought about this scripture in this way!
I was always a little puzzled thinking "what a big loser! why would you be friends with someone who would sin against you so many times??!" duh.
I tell ya, exercising that forgiveness muscle 70x7 for every time you get ripped off is gonna make for one heckuva sixpack. whew!
I got a little sidetracked there and maybe a little too lighthearted.
We have established that forgiveness takes tenacity. What I wanted to talk about is how forgiveness takes courage.
To look at someone who has hurt you...most likely betrayed you in some way...and say to
them "I forgive you" and really mean it to the point that you can feel the blessed release of it...well, that is just almost too hard to think about.
The thing that makes it so very hard is that you have to accept that what happened was wrong. And then you have to move on. And let them move on too.
Let's go back to where I talked about wrong causing hurt and hate. Hurt and hate are burdens.
Big old bulky packages of poo. Weights that are either carried or left behind. When we forgive, we relieve the burden. Put it down. Leave it behind.
And in that action we also turn and lift that same burden off of our perpetrators shoulders too.
Now here is the sticky part...sometimes, I don't want to relieve them just yet...or ever.
I want them to feel the weight.
But, the stinky part here, if I require them to carry the weight...I will carry mine too.
That's how it works.
If I require them to carry my hurt I will continue to carry my hate.
So, practically speaking, it is in my best interest to forgive. It lightens my load. And the bonus, the mysterious part that only God understands, is that while they do benefit...we benefit more. Our heart gets better(maybe not all the way at first). Our stress reduces. Our compassion increases. We see our past better. We see our future brighter. We grow. We get lighter. wow.
And we never once have to say it didn't matter. We don't have to lie down or roll over or take it anymore.
Forgiveness does not mean "i deserved it"or "you had a good reason" or "it's no big deal".
We get to say "dang that hurt! You hurt me. It matters. I matter. That was not ok!"
and then, while recognizing the wrongness we can say the words and do the actions that bring forgiveness and while that does not make the action right, it can stop the perpetual wheel that keeps bringing the wrong around to be wrong again and again and again.
God has given us the power to put a stop to the pain. I wish it were instant. Sigh.
Here is a couple of things I am discovering...it makes my life make so much more sense....
I have always been soooo sorry when I have done somebody wrong. Like, hang my head, sackcloth and ashes, I am not worthy- sorry.
I think that some of that comes from the fact that this is the action I wished to see from those that had wronged me. I wanted them to prove the "sorry". No lip service.
and while I was much too mature and christian to require it of them...my heart wanted them to grovel.
So when I screwed up...I grovelled...or hid. Because that is what my heart required.
You are judged as you judge others???hmmmmm....my heart has been a very harsh judge. ugh.
Another thing I am learning is that forgiveness takes time. People might tell you to be quick to forgive and that might really be the best way but I do not believe that it is always possible.
Maybe we can forgive in layers. I don't know.
If that is how it works then right now I can forgive your lack of self control that resulted in a bruise on my arm but I am gonna have to get back to you about your underlying control issues and how that makes me feel like a toad.
Mostly tho, I just want to be able to take a little time to heal. I might need to process (and think of all the things I coulda/shoulda said at the time) and get to a place where I can let you be free of the pain you caused me. Don't hold yer breath.
It will come. But I won't be rushed.
In simple terms, I am learning to forgive. Yes, I still have major problems with it. But I am learning. I am learning that people are going to rip me off on a regular basis just like I am going to rip other people off. And that is not ok. But I can recognize the wrongness and decide not to hold it against them.
I can hope that others would do the same for me.
One last question. What if they never say “sorry” ?
I want you to think about this...in light of what we have been talking about...does sorry really matter?
Sure, it might help. But does it really play a part in your action of forgiveness?
Just something to think about.