To say “I’m sorry” is difficult. If you don’t feel that you are in the wrong, it is impossible. As a teacher, I guide my students to think about the other person’s perspective. I ask, “If I go over and ask ___________ what just happened, what would I be told?” It is the quickest way to get to the bottom of the situation. The child who made the offense often admits to his or her (often unintentional) wrongdoing. They apologize to the other person for coming across the wrong way or something similar, and they can keep playing together.
What I have noticed since childhood is that children and adults alike share their sides of the stories with people who they know will back them up and support them no matter what. Some will avoid confrontation. Some create it. When I am in the position of referee, I do my best to step in and guide the children before the argument has time to grow and fester. This is contrary to the “Let them work it out because they’ll have to in the real world” idea. Children need tools, scaffolding, and encouragement. I don’t think I’ll ever know if my strategies have long lasting effects, but I know that they helped in small settings.
It is important for adults, parents, and teachers to understand that most of what the children argue about are not at all petty to them. The kindergarten teacher hopes that the parents of her children know to create a birthday invitation list over a period of weeks and not just in one day. The successful first grade teacher helps students determine the difference between tattling and reporting. The second grade teacher knows that the children will, in fact, be friends again and probably tomorrow. Skip right up to the hormonal years, and hopefully parents will give advice like my mom gave me: “I bet that you won’t like him in a few days, and he will not be so cute next week.” She understood the hormonal cycle and was always right.
But how does all of this apply to older students and adults? I would suggest using anger management tips to handle anger associated with the need to forgive. Forgiveness, I have learned, does not require an apology from the other person who made the offense. It does not require the offended adult to become a doormat. It does, however, require the offended person to see from the other person’s point of view before making a judgment. Forgiveness does not say, “It’s OK that you hurt me.” Forgiveness requires you to look at your own life and be thankful for the times you have been forgiven. My faith gives me hope that I can forgive others if Christ can forgive me. Anger eats away at people; it is a consistent source of destruction in the home.
I’m not an expert on this subject by any means, and I am not a fan of the phrase “Forgive and Forget.” With the exception of some versions of I Corinthians 13:5, I don’t see it in Scripture. However, if Christians are to follow the example God gives us, David tells us that God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. This does not mean that my sins don’t have consequences! They do. When someone genuinely and intentionally wrongs someone, it does not mean that the offender should have no consequences. It means that the offended can find peace and freedom after being physically or mentally injured.
My challenge to all of us is this: love others by learning about them and their point of view. Parents, if your children are wronged at school, ask hard questions. There is really no way to gain a complete understanding of a situation without microphones and cameras with a 360 degree view attached to every child’s head; that would just be silly. Forgiveness takes work, a change in perspective, and the understanding that people are worth forgiving, even if it is simply for your heart to heal. Some people may never change, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in the pit of unforgiveness. Get up; get a better view, and take the first step on the way out of that pit.