On the first day of kindergarden, I remember a tall black boy confronted me and insisted that I move chairs because he wanted to sit where I was sitting. Before I even had a chance to move, he shoved me out of my chair and I fell to the floor. I didn’t cry then, but I was so overwhelmed when I shared the experience with my mother later that day that I became really upset. I asked her why someone would do that to me and how someone could do something so unfair.
Instead of whining to the teacher, or encouraging me to fight back, my mom insisted I share some candy with him the next day.
What? Why would I do that? Why would I show kindness to someone who has so clearly mistreated me? I remember telling my mom “That’s dumb, candy isn’t going to make him nicer”. She suggested that perhaps he acted the way he did because he was scared. He didn’t have any friends in the class yet, and maybe he was just afraid of being away from his family. An important lesson: we never really know why people act or feel the way they do until we walk a mile in their shoes.
Sure enough, I went in the next day with a candy bar, which I offered to him timidly, and asked if he wanted to be friends. I remember he was so confused by what happened, he didn’t say anything to me the rest of the day. Not “Sure!”, or “Thank you!”, or “I’m sorry for pushing you”. But, the next day, he came back with a candy bar for me and he asked if I wanted to sit at his table. No sorry necessary.
Years later my dad passed along some similar wisdom which I immediately took to heart: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him” (A quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).
Forgiveness and empathy have become instrumental components to the development of my character over the years, but lately it’s been one of the hardest things for me to offer.
Someone I deeply care for posted something on their facebook recently, something that really made me reevaluate where I am in life. His post read “You must have an utterly forgiving spirit.” It was a really good reminder but something didn’t sit well with me. The reason being, I realized I have been building up a lot of negativity. It’s been stockpiling on my heart and it’s made me heavy; stuck and settled in a place of resentment… Resentment towards my job, my hometown, my love life, my life in general.
This week I remembered how much easier it is to sit in spaces of hurt and negativity. It’s easy to play the victim, to feel like you owe nothing to anyone, and to feel like everything is owed to you. And the unfortunate truth is sometimes you ARE the victim, and sometimes everything IS owed to you, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to get what you deserve. Sometimes you have to forgive before someone deserves to be forgiven.
Be forgiving. Just do it. I know it’s hard but it feels better on the other side- trust me. Do what you have to do to move forward, even if it means compromising your ego and your own hurt feelings. You might not get all that you deserve but you will always find yourself in a position to discover something rewarding in the end.
This is a declaration of my choice to forgive those who have caused me pain in the past weeks and months. I’m moving forward and doing things that make me happy again. I am so grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned through these challenging months. I am stronger because of them and all the wiser. Thank you.. and even though you aren’t sorry, and you may never even understand what you’ve done- I forgive you.