Daily conflict occurs in every home with little children. In my home it most often happens like this. Millie (3) yanks a toy from Shannon’s (7) hands. Shannon cries, yells, or tugs it back. Millie pulls harder and soon both end up bruised and crying. Rarely is there bloodshed, but the volume does reach epic proportions. It is at this point that I intervene and it typically goes something like this:
*Picture credit: Lindsay Prockish
Me: “Please tell Sister that you are sorry.”
Millie: “Sorry, Shannie, for taking your doll.”
Shannon: “It’s okay.”
Then they hug it out and playtime continues. Both girls are healed and happy and a little lesson has been learned. Parenting win!
Or is it? What does saying, “it’s ok” actually mean? More often than not “it’s ok” is the proverbial “get out of jail free card.” “It’s ok” means there is no punishment or consequence for my behavior. It means I can still sit here, exactly I was before I offended you, and nothing changes.
“I’m sorry I ruined your favorite shirt.”
But is it okay? Will the shirt be forever discolored or torn? Does “It’s ok” really say what we mean it to say? Is it really ok?
I’m sorry I made fun of your child, I’m sorry I hit you, I yelled at you, I insulted you, I teased you in public. I’m sorry I did that one thing, or those lots of things, that hurt you. Is it really just ok?
“It’s ok” says it didn’t really matter. It wasn’t really that important. My time isn’t worth more than whatever you just did to me. I am not worth more than whatever you did to me. I expected that’s what would happen. I deserve what happened. Because, well, “it’s ok.”
It’s not ok.
What if, instead we practiced forgiveness? REAL forgiveness. Even when the apology is flippant. Even when the hurt is real; especially when the hurt is real! Forgiveness is so powerful. What if our response is “I forgive you” instead of “it’s okay”?
“I forgive you” says, “I hear you saying, ‘I’m sorry’ and you owe it to me. Because your words hurt or your actions were wrong. My life is changed because of what you did or said.”
When a conflict occurs, as it’s sure to, and an apology happens, I think we have 3 possible responses:
- We can say “it’s okay” and grant them the freedom to write off their misdoings, while we still hold on to our hurt.
- We can say “I forgive you.” I hear you, I feel the pain you inflicted into my life and I forgive you. Right now we start clean and fresh and new.
- Or we can say “I’m not quite ready to forgive you for hurting me.” I almost cry thinking of that power.
In the lives of our little people we try to practice all 3 of those responses regularly because Hurt Happens. It happens when we are grown ups and it happens when we are little. If we teach our little people how to truly engage with their hurting, we give them power over it.
If we teach our children how to truly engage with their hurting we give them power over it.
There are times when “it’s ok” is really a proper response.
“I’m sorry I accidentally stepped on your foot.”
“It’s ok, it was an accident.”
The story has ended and the hurt was unintended. It really is “ok.”
“I’m sorry I took your toy.”
“I forgive you.”
It hurt me and it bothered me that you didn’t care about my feelings, but we can move on. I can trust you to not do it again.
“I’m sorry that I told that secret you entrusted me with.”
“I’m not ready to forgive you yet.”
That wound is too deep, the hurt is to much, the trust to too broken. I’ll get there, to the point where trust is an option, where forgiveness is good for both of us, but right now I’m just not ready.
Can you feel that power!?!
Connor was playing his first year in T-ball. All those adorable kindergarteners were hanging out in the dugout waiting to bat. Suddenly a teammate, who had just struck out, stomped into the dugout and threw his bat at Connor. Connor jumped out of the way and his teammate grabbed him around the neck and hit him. The coaches quickly handled the situation appropriately and after the game the boy and his mom apologized to me. I brought my shaking 6 year old over to the family and had the young man apologize to Connor. Surrounded by parents, teammates, and coaches, the exchange went something like this:
Boy: I’m sorry for hitting you with the bat.
Connor: That’s ok, you didn’t mean to.
Connor: But you punched me on purpose.
Boy: I’m sorry for punching you.
Connor: You are forgiven. Please don’t do that again.
The collective gasp and awe from the onlookers was nothing short of beautiful. Even at 6, Connor knew what needed to happen and he handled it! By the end of the season these two boys were friends and chose to sit together in the dugout. Forgiveness is powerful!
I truly believe that we will all learn the value of our actions if there’s forgiveness at stake.