Bursting into tears, my five-year-old daughter repeated the offenses of her now ex-best friend. They'd argued and then supremely announced to one another that they were no longer friends. She calmed down and decided to see if another child in the neighborhood could play. The other little girl had the same idea with the same child.
Coming back home, my daughter walked into our house with long, red scratches down her neck. My daughter had poked her now ex-best friend in the mouth and the girl reacted as most females do: with her fingernails. We did the dutiful trek and talked to the girl’s parents. We adults agreed that the girls needed a break from each other.
Our doorbell rang the following day. My daughter ran to the door to see who was here. Her ex-best friend. My daughter whipped the door open. Before the girl could say a word, my daughter said, “I’m sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?”
I stood speechless and proud and humbled and speechless. I didn’t tell her to say those things. In fact, she had already apologized to the girl the day before in front of us adults.
The Bible tells us to be like little children. If a five year old child gets it, why can’t we adults? Forgiveness is a hard lesson to learn if you’ve been knocked down over and over and over. Our hearts become hard. We tell ourselves no one will ever hurt us ‘like that’ again. And when someone does, because someone always will, we become even more determined to not let it happen again.
Forgiveness sounds nice, polite, and respectful to the other person, but it’s not for them. It’s for you. You don’t want to become fearful and bitter; it’s a lonely place to live. I know. It’s easier to forgive someone for one or two hurts they may have caused you. But it’s another thing when those hurts continue year after year after year.
I am learning to forgive. One of the hardest words to say is one of the hardest words to learn: No. Set your boundaries and don’t let anyone cross them. Easier said than done, yes, but it’s a requirement you owe yourself. Did you hear that? For YOU, not for the ones that hurt you. Every time I say, no, I’m not taking that anymore, I get stronger.
My five-year-old daughter taught me how easy it is to say, “I’m sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?” And she meant it. They weren’t just flippant words. Push yourself. The next time you hurt someone, tell them you’re sorry. And mean it. Ask for their forgiveness. Whether the person accepts your apology or not, isn’t the point. Forgiveness is for you. Your heart and mind will fill with peace.