Give Me A Break – And A Little Forgiveness

Being a motivational speaker and a mom, I need to get innovative about where I get work done. Yesterday found me sitting in the play place of Chic-Fil-A – the amusement park for those without any dead presidents – attempting to find the self-control to not eat every one of my boy’s chicken nuggets, observing my son play in the bigger-than-life-sized hamster wheel of germs, and trying once more to recognize that stench. I’m always surprised at how much I learn from these outings. On this day I received a reminder on forgiveness.

This child climbs up to the top and starts crying, like eighty percent of the children who climb to the top of the play place and realize they do not have the nerve to come back down. Like every other mother there, I am hoping that it is not my child – because on this day I forgot to pack my “portable jaws of life”. And in my mind I see good looking firemen battling to yank my bloated keister free from the plastic pipes. Just for the record – judging from the firemen in my family – I don’t think they can all qualify as hunky..

This child had the “I’m hurt” scream that makes every mother’s heart stop for a moment – where even the most unspiritual mom will pray that her baby is okay. Fortunately we could discern that it wasn’t a “something’s broken” scream, but instead an “I hurt myself and I need Mommy to kiss it” cry. We soon determined who the crying kid belonged to, and that there was no possibility her mommy could fit her posterior through the tubing.

We directed one kid up to get her. He did not come back. We sent another kid up, but he got midway up before sliding back down in a puddle of drool. Running low on suitable older kids, we bribed a girl not much older than our stuck kid with the happy meal toy from one of our unsuccessful heroes. Our little girl rescue team makes it to the top of the plastic tube behemoth and coaxes the scared child down. The small hurt girl runs to her mommy to show her the boo-boo that could only be seen under a microscope and all is well again. Unfortunately our story doesn’t end there. I could discern from the look in the angry mother’s eyes that this tale was not even close to over. I could see that mother grilling her child like she was a suspect in a murder investigation. I could see her mouthing the words “Who was it?” while her eyes glared from kid to kid – her own kid having by now forgotten the incident all together. I knew this mother’s look. This mother was ready to blame somebody for wounding her child. This was the look that said “somebody is going to pay.” And this type of look never ends well.

As an expert of suburban snooping, I could ascertain that her daughter had not identified a suspect. It was apparent that this mother would root out the villain herself. In the face of having no credible proof, the mother fell upon the usual suspect – the filthy child with the inattentive mother. The mother gave the poor filthy kid the evil eye, like she was aiming to bore a hole in the tike. It was a Lifetime movie in the making. The innocent poor kid falsely accused, pushed into a downward spiral of low self-esteem and minor crime, eventually living up to society’s expectations.

I wanted to go tell that mother to give it a rest. To overlook it for gosh sakes. Her little girl was fine. There is no problem. Why did she want to find somebody to blame? Why is it that someone must always pay? What happened to forgiveness? And it also occurred to me that I have been guilty of the same thing – more times than I would choose to acknowledge. I considered all the times something happened to me and the very first thing I did was go searching for somebody to blame.

Shoot, I misplace something at home, and I start yelling “Who took it?” A water main ruptures, and I am seeking out who to take to court for not being able to take a bath for a few hours. The playplace reminded me that we’ve lost our capability to forgive, but we’ve gotten really good at placing blame.

I remember someone telling me about a kid calling another kid a name on the playground at school. The principal handled it. End of story. But it was not the end of the story. The mother of the kid who got called a name chose to start her own “investigation” and questioned all the other mothers about their kid’s experience with the name caller. She had meetings. She sent letters. She pressed them to take action against the name caller’s mother. It was a good old fashioned witch hunt. And these things don’t just transpire on playgrounds. I’ve been in churches, work places, neighborhood events, committee meetings – where people are swift to blame and judge and slow to forgive. And even slower to forget. Where accepting responsibility is no longer adequate – we need payback – oftentimes for something that was not even done to us to begin with.

In case you haven’t noticed, people make mistakes – a lot. We’re human, it’s part of our DNA to screw up. I wouldn’t be a motivational speaker if everybody were perfect! Unexpected things happen, and sometimes they aren’t anybody’s fault. We need to quit trying to make it somebody’s fault. Yes, we’re responsible for our choices and our behaviors. Yes, we are responsible for our goof ups and should own up to them and take responsibility. But we’re also accountable to forgive – not to judge – but to forgive – and then let it go. Stop searching for someone to pay. Quit allowing yourself be consumed with bitterness and a yearning for revenge. Don’t blame the car manufacturer simply because the driver was negligent. You don’t owe me due to the fact your coffee was hot and you didn’t warn me. If you come to my house and the supper I made you was too hot, where do you get off thinking I need to ante up? And often we hold grudges in cases of crimes that have no proof to back them up – we find the suspects guilty based on gossip.

A lot of people make the point that if we don’t take apart every incident to the last detail, pointing fingers and chopping heads – that we’re condemned to repeat the event. This doesn’t imply that everyone will get a free pass for everything they do wrong. Quite the opposite, we are still responsible for our actions. I’m just saying that individuals should be forgiven for the sincere mistakes that they make.

So far, I’ve been speaking about forgiveness for actual mistakes. Some of you are coping with wounds that were purposefully given with hateful intentions. Forgiveness, in these situations, requires more than what I’ve been speaking about. This is a unique circumstance. My interest is on finding forgiveness in your heart for the “honest mistakes”.

So how do we do it? How do we practice the lost art of forgiveness?

Were you personally caught up in the “incident”? If not, keep out of it.

Do not dump every imagined slight in the face of the “perpetrator”. Learn to forgive these people in your soul and move on. Use some judgment and decide what is truly vital.

Don’t judge. You simply do not have the authority. We all fall short. We all make mistakes and bad decisions. If you answer to God, then you already know that each sin is equal and you are every bit as guilty as they are. Judgment is not your responsibility or entitlement.

Don’t give out justice. Again, it’s beyond your paygrade.

Let gossip stop with you. It’s simple. Don’t reply to the email. Don’t pass it on. Don’t jump on the phone and share the news. Don’t mention it in passing. This is difficult. Good gossip is more difficult to hold in than a poot. But do it anyway.

If you are directly engaged in the episode, work directly with the persons caught up and handle the predicament like an adult.

Give up believing that people have to answer to you. They don’t owe you anything. You don’t get to determine the standard of conduct and after that count on everyone around you to adhere to it.

Step into the shoes of the other people involved for a while. You may find a way to show them some grace.

The earth is brimming with evil people and foolish people and people who are irritating. Get over it.

You can’t control other people – only yourself. Forgiveness is not as much for them as it is for you. Hauling around bitterness only harms you – emotionally and physically.

There is not always someone or somebody to blame in every predicament. Accidents happen. Don’t blame the bike company because you were drinking when you rode the bike.

Keep love in your heart and on your mind, and soon you’ll discover yourself taking a different perspective with most situations.

These aren’t simple things to do. You cannot merely declare you’re planning to forgive people. You have to continuously work at it. But it’s worth the cost. It makes the earth a better place. And besides, one day, the mistake will be yours, and it will be you seeking forgiveness.

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