March 21, 2018
Canadians have a reputation for politeness, especially saying sorry a lot. Comedians poke gentle fun at our gentleness. I recently saw an advertisement with a variety of athletes apologizing for dominating their opponents, a tongue in cheek acknowledgment of our reputation for apologizing for the smallest slights.
But what about the bigger, deeper conflicts, are we as quick to seek forgiveness in these instances? As you can imagine, working in a school provides a steady supply of conflicts ranging from minor hurt feelings to major disagreements. Sometimes, apologies are in order. Often children balk at apologizing. At times they don’t feel that they are wrong or, perhaps, that the person they hurt deserved it. They are surprised that both sides of a disagreement need to apologize. They feel that if they didn’t intend to hurt the person they shouldn’t have to apologize. In many cases they see apologizing as an admission of guilt and as a form of punishment. Why is it, as the old song says, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word?”
It’s not just the kids who have trouble expressing remorse, either. I am sure all of us remember a time when we hesitated to reconcile with someone who we have hurt, intentionally or not. Our self-esteem and fear of being vulnerable to the other person can interfere with reaching out to those we have wronged. Sometimes, the person we have hurt is a child in our lives. I remember talking to my brother about this idea when his kids were young. He said he would never admit to being wrong, that this weakness would undermine his authority as parent. Hmmm….. I’d like to talk about this with him again, now that we both have weathered child rearing to see if his opinion is the same. I know my journey as a parent (and as a teacher) has been filled with mistakes and reconciliation. In fact, some of the moments of closest connection have come from being vulnerable enough to ask forgiveness from a little person.
These moments come into our lives as parents, teachers and adults. We do or say the wrong thing. Sometimes we fail to act when we know we should. Our response to these situations is noticed by our children. We have the opportunity to teach them about reconciliation in a very real, very counter-cultural way. Society provides models of people who never admit mistakes for fear of lawsuits, people who look to blame someone else for anything and everything that is wrong with their lives and people who qualify their apologies with “but you made me.,” statements. We need to model reconciliation for our children both in our interactions with them and in our interactions with each other.
Through the month of March our grade six class has been sharing their prayers on forgiveness over the PA at morning announcements. They varied greatly, but the common thread was the feeling that comes from forgiving and being forgiven. To hear it from them, as hard as the process can be, the payoff is more than worth it. What a great Lenten sentiment! As that season comes closer to its end and we try to get our houses in order for Easter may we also try to get our spiritual houses in order. Enjoy this time with your children and look for those moments when reconciliation can move from theory into reality.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord
– Colosssians 3:13