February Theme: Mercy & Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” -Martin Luther King, Jrkelly sikkema XX2WTbLr3r8 unsplash

“Say you’re sorry” is something that I used to say frequently as an elementary classroom teacher. After a child muttered “sorry,” it was never clear what the other student should do or whether the situation was actually repaired. As an adult, I am still learning to apologize and forgive. Studies have found that people who know how to forgive are generally happier, have stronger relationships and even do better in school! The good news is that we can teach forgiveness. 

How do you apologize genuinely? How do you forgive someone that has harmed you? How do you commit to justice while also being able to let go of the anger? 

  • Intent vs. impact - No matter what my intentions are, the impact is what matters. I can acknowledge the impact and try to understand someone else’s perspective. Then my job is to apologize and try to do better next time. 
  • The first principle of Unitarian Universalism - the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I try to remember that everyone is worthy and deserving of love and respect. 
  • The Two Monks Story - “Why are you still carrying her?” It is often more painful to hold onto anger and hurt than to forgive. 

Real apologies and forgiveness take work, attention, and discomfort. This seems like an especially vital skill right now with all of the divisiveness in our country. 

Families can explore forgiveness with stories and scenarios, trying to empathize with both sides of a situation and imagine how repair could happen. As adults, it is time for us to learn how to acknowledge and apologize for our impacts, learning about ways that we are complicit in oppression and harm. The February care package offers opportunities to learn about and practice forgiveness together: https://padlet.com/dre21/febpackage