Practicing Immediate Forgiveness

As a mom, I believe it gets progressively more difficult as your child gets older. You may have an adjustment period with a newborn and variation in schedules due to teething and growth, but all in all when your child is a baby they are pretty enjoyable, congenial little beasts whom we adore. As they grow, they begin to find and exercise this new muscle they discover called “will”. Their will becomes stronger and stronger. In the beginning, we rejoice! Oh, it’s so great! She can tell me she does not want something or she really wants that toy. She’s communicating! She’s becoming her own person. And eventually that wears off some time in between a tug-of-war match with your iPhone and you squishing down on food on the floor in your socks. Of course, the adoration is still there. The overwhelming bursts of love we experience daily still fill our hearts. However, there are many more difficult days. In fact, it becomes a regular thing. Almost like it’s part of the daily routine to walk through Hell and back and then you go on through the magical green pastures.

A huge lesson for me in all this has been forgiveness. When I was a kid, forgiveness meant saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” and then playing nicer. When I became an adult, forgiveness meant letting go of hurt and forgiving others and myself. Now in motherhood and as a wife, forgiveness means “not continuously punishing myself and/or others”. The book The Four Agreements says, “humans are the only creature in the animal kingdom that pay over and over for one mistake” and it’s true. What do I mean? In marriage it’s like this: the husband says he is leaving work in 10 minutes and will be home in 30 minutes. 2 hours later he walks through the door. The wife is upset and he apologizes sincerely, “I’m so sorry, babe. I had a client call and he had a huge issue…” whatever the reason may be. Now, I will openly admit I am guilty of the following: the wife says, “It’s fine/it’s okay/at least you could have texted me…” whatever, BUT! She then holds it over him for the rest of the evening. She’s quiet, not communicative, everything frustrates her, and her husband is punished over and over and over again throughout the evening because of his one mistake for which she cannot forgive him. I’m talking from personal experience here.

For my child it goes something like this: she wants everything in and out of reach. She wants food, then throws it on the ground. She wants a drink, then pours it out on herself. She climbs up to the window and tears the flowers apart. I take her down, she does it again, repeat, repeat, repeat. Then comes the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back (usually over the same thing happening for the 57th time) and control is lost. “No! Again?!” and then I’m just a little bit mad and resentful for the next few hours (or until she does something adorable again). In the same way as previously stated, I am punishing her with my attitude and mood over and over again.

This is where immediate forgiveness comes in, and I’ll add that I believe this is true forgiveness. True forgiveness is being able to communicate what went wrong, how it affected us, how to resolve it, and then you move forward in happiness. It’s easy to type that, but very difficult to do in practice. Imagine the scene again with the husband and wife. Now when he apologizes, her response is, “I understand, thank you for apologizing. Next time, it would be so much better for me if you could text me to let me know you’ll be late. Now, tell me about the rest of your day. Was it a good day?” and she goes forward smiling and happy. For dealing with your child, you have to every time correct and then move forward with happiness. If it needs seriousness, then address it with sternness and then move forward and start fresh.

This is what I have learned is true forgiveness. It’s the actions after the words. Immediate action. Immediate love and happiness says that you have truly forgiven them, you are not holding it against them. I imagine it in my head as turning over a new leaf. I take a deep breath, exhale enthusiastically and then smile and say, “Okay!” and it’s my way of telling myself it’s okay to let go and now I am moving forward again, starting fresh. I choose to be happy, smile, and treat others lovingly. Am I good at this? Well, I’m getting better. It isn’t easy. Some days I fail. But I believe this is the stuff that gives you a good relationship with your kids even after they grow up. This is the stuff that helps you see your 50th wedding anniversary.