Things come up in life that test our capacity to forgive, and these tests might come at any time. To forgive someone who has wronged you or injured you in ways that you weren’t even aware were possible isn’t always a simple task, especially if the wrongdoing or hurt occurred in the past. It’s not always easy to forgive someone.
But there’s a chance it doesn’t have to be that way. Perhaps we are the ones who are making things difficult for ourselves. After all, granting someone forgiveness does not alter the person you are forgiving; rather, it alters you.
The well-known social media blog Humans of New York recently published an article that told the experience of a man who did not have a relationship with his father. The tale was quite good, but it was one of the comments that followed it that caused a sensation on the internet.
Jennifer Thomas responded to the discussion with a remarkable anecdote about her daughter, one that provided this mother with all of the insight into forgiveness that she required:
Since she was four years old, my daughter has not had contact with her biological father. She’s 11 years old now. When she was two years old, he contacted me and asked if he could terminate his parental rights so that he could stop paying child support. I consented to this, and he was able to cease paying… I wanted to spare her the anguish that comes with having a father who is constantly moving about, and the fact that I had to give up some of my financial assistance to do so was more than worth it so that he can never let her down again.
I never once misled her about who her father was or where her father was… I have always responded to her inquiries in a manner that was suitable for her age whenever possible. He reached out to me when she was four years old and informed me that he had been diagnosed with cancer and would like to visit her.
I reserved a day, and we arranged to meet in a park. He requested that we give him two hours. He was only there for twenty minutes, but after that, we never saw or heard from him again.
During the summer, we ran into someone who knows him, and during our conversation, they remarked on how much she resembles his older children. They went on to explain that he has found a job and is raising a family at this point.
The thought of how distressing that must be for my daughter caused a knot to form in the pit of my stomach. I decided to cut the chat short, and as we were getting into the car to depart, I looked over and saw that she was smiling.
She told her mother, “Mom… he finally figured out how to be a father.” That is an extremely kind gesture. I am delighted for his children.
And that is the day that a child of 11 years old taught me everything I need to know about being able to forgive.
God encourages each of us to have the faith of a child. I like to think that involves having the forgiving nature of a child. The lesson that we can all learn from this eleven-year-old is that we need to take something that seems impossible to do — forgiving other people — and transform it into something that is easy to do.