A Lesson My Daughter Taught Me about Forgiveness

When Jesus talks about having the faith of a child, he’s talking about the pure innocent nature of a child’s faith in something. Children are clean slates essentially and have no baggage from previous experiences like adults. I didn’t really understand this until I had a child of my own, and now I find I’m learning more about faith and life from my daughter than I ever imagined I would.

Recently, we were having a really casual dinner, Papa John’s delivery to be specific. We gave my daughter her own slice, which she absolutely loved. She’s a year and a half old, by the way. She devoured the slice in no time at all, and only the crust remained. She was wandering around with the crust in her hand when our stereotypically mischievous beagle began sniffing around. Now, my wife and I both know our dog very well, and we knew exactly what he was up to, so we try to get him away from our daughter.

Too late.

In the blink of an eye, our dog had snatched the crust right out of her hand and eaten it. The tears and screams that followed were not unexpected because our daughter loves to gnaw on pizza crust. She was both shocked and indignant, to say the least.

But then I watched something else happen. Something totally unexpected.

Just a few minutes later, she picked up one of Pippin’s chew toys and took it over to him and pet him and tried to get him to play with his toy. I couldn’t believe it. Were it me, I probably would have popped him in the nose and fumed for a while. But she went right back to him and played with him almost immediately. Because she loves her puppy, and that’s all that really matters to her.

Then I felt a little ashamed of myself because I realized I’m not that good at forgiving.

We like to throw around this phrase, “forgive and forget”, as if it’s the way forgiveness works, but it’s not. Forgetting something is not forgiveness. In fact, forgetting an incident does us no good. When that memory pops back into our head, the anger and bitterness associated with it often follows. That’s not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is loving in spite of the wrong that has been done to us. My daughter didn’t simply forget what the dog had done, she moved past it.

That’s love. Action, not emotion.

That’s forgiveness. Restoring the relationship to what it should be regardless of wrongs done.

That’s tough. Forgiveness does not come easy to us. The longer we live, the more we are wronged, and the more bitterness we discover. We stop forgiving because we get tired of it, or people continue to wrong us or take advantage of our forgiving nature. Yet, Jesus tells us to forgive seven times seventy; in other words, always forgive.

Don’t let bitterness and anger build up. Take a lesson from children. Simply love. I’m so caught up in trying to teach my daughter how to live, but I’m starting to think that she’s the one teaching me how to live.