The other night I watched a movie that changed the way I think.
The documentary is called "The Power of Forgiveness," and its central theme is that forgiveness, while complex, is an essential component to forward progress. In particular, there was a part of the movie that talked about how the concept of "justice" may stand as an obstacle to forgiveness, and thus impede movement forward in life.
As a parent of a child with a special need, I find myself often focused on justice. I try to prevent times when Ben is "left out" because of his dietary needs, and I am guilty of storming in when he is indeed left standing on the outside of some event in his life.
More often than not, I find myself fuming about "Why don't they get it?" "How come parents feel liked their kids need to eat something every hour on the hour?" "When did life become so food-centric?"
And that fuming really leads to nowhere. I can, in fact, incite any of my allergy friends with a call and a retelling of the latest infringement, and then I get them fuming, both of us now going nowhere.
And then, after watching this movie, I had an epiphany. While "justice" is an important piece of the puzzle, it is only one piece. Forgiveness must be a piece too. Neither piece is more important than the other. And one cannot complete the puzzle of moving forward in life without both of those pieces.
It sounds a little overdramatic to say that we must "forgive" those who wrong our children. It also may sound a little preachy. But I am convinced that I, myself, need to spend more time connecting with forgiveness and I need to pass this on to Ben as well as Molly and Phillip.
I think we must actively incorporate forgiveness into the way we think with our children. We need to share the power of forgiveness and that forgiving someone is a choice you can make to regain your power. One does not have to "feel like" forgiving, because forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling. Forgiveness is instrumental to progress.
But I am a practical person -- many of you are probably saying, "That's great, Erin, but how do we actually do this?"
I'm a big believer of using literature. From Amish Grace for adults to Franklin Forgives, Mad Maddie Maxwell and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse for young children, there are lots of titles that can start the conversation rolling.
Books for older children include Shiloh and This is Just to Say (a book of poems of apology and forgiveness).
Futhermore, the movie featured a school in war-torn Ireland that makes use of "forgiveness glasses." They encourage children to share their hurt, put on the glasses and then share something good about the person who actually hurt them.
I also ran across a poem to teach forgiveness to children. It goes:
Hurt you not
I'm not going to give up striving for Justice. I will continue to work to educate people about living with food allergies, and strive to make our world a little less food-centric and a little more accepting of our allergic children, but I will also work to actively forgive those who knowingly and unknowingly work against me.