Janice got divorced a year ago after discovering that her husband, Mark, had an ongoing affair. She still feels acutely betrayed and has a hard time saying anything good about Mark to their daughter, Shani, age 8. Even though she has “read the books” about kids and divorce, it’s all she can do to keep her mouth shut when Mark comes up in conversation.
She had a wake-up call this week in the form of a message from school. Shani, who had lost her old best friend to another girl, had been plotting vengeance with her new friends and even talking about poisoning the other child by mixing liquids from home.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is being able to let go of harm done. It is relinquishing a sense of injured entitlement or tit-for-tat. Forgiveness releases us from resentment or bitterness and lets us reclaim our energy and sense of balance.
Sometimes we feel like we cannot forgive without remorse or propitiation on the part of the other person, but the power of forgiveness lies within us, not in the actions or attitudes of others. Speaking our truth and taking steps to protect ourselves from future harm can help us to move on. The more we understand the person who has harmed us, their feelings, frailties and external pressures, the easier it is to forgive.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.
A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Bringing it home to your kids
- When your child is an “injured party” help them to speculate about the other person’s feelings, thoughts, and human imperfections. Understanding is a powerful driver of forgiveness.
- Injuries caused by pets – a scratch from a scared cat, a nip by a hungry guinea pig, bruises from being bowled over by a big dog–can be a good starting point for beginning conversations about forgiveness, because a pet’s motives are so simple compared to humans.
- Sibling spats offer great opportunities to coach the process of cooling down and letting go. Only after cooling down will your child be capable of insight about a sibling’s feelings or his/her own behavior.
- Support your kids in asserting their sense of injury and requests for fair treatment or restitution. But make sure they understand that they have the power to let go and move on regardless of how others behave.
- Mind your own tendency to bring up past transgressions. It’s so easy to slip into gossip in front of the kids when you are with friends or complaints about a former spouse. You are a powerful model for your children in terms of nursing injuries or letting them go.
Photo by Norma Desmond