Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 5: Not Knowing How to Forgive
“But, I just don’t know how to forgive. How do I go about it?”
I have heard this so often…..and it breaks my heart because it should not happen. How have people’s teachers somehow failed to show a growing child the path to forgiveness? Don’t we work hard—very hard—to show a child how to find his or her way home so that, when lost, there is a map in the memory? Why do we fail to work even harder to place the map of forgiveness in a child’s mind? To have to grope in the dark for the forgiveness path when one’s heart is bleeding is not fair. When we neglect to show children the path out of darkness and into the light of forgiveness, we are neglecting a key point of being human….a key point in surviving tragedy and others’ mayhem.
Children need forgiveness education to know that, when forgiving, a first step is the freedom to admit injury. Another has withdrawn love from me and I am hurting.
Facing such a reality helps people to see the injustice for what it is. It can give a person courage to look injustice in the eye and call it by its name. Such courage can propel a person to commit to forgiving, committing to reducing resentment and offering goodness in spite of the hurt.
The courage helps a forgiver to then see the inherent worth of the one who did the hurting…..not because of what was done, but in spite of it.
The courage helps the forgiver to let compassion grow in the heart as a response of mercy to those who have not had mercy on the forgiver. Eventually, the forgiver begins to find meaning in the suffering and to reach out to the offender, at least within reason so that the forgiver protects the self from further serious injury.
This path is vital to a restored emotional health. We need to see this and to have the courage to teach children how to forgive so that they do not ask, in confusion, as adults: “How do I forgive? I do not know the path.”