Talking to Teens about Forgiveness
Because so many adults put so little thought into or value upon the concept of extending forgiveness to others, it’s no wonder that teens often have a difficult time understanding and implementing this very important concept.
Taking a Lesson from Little Kids
For the most part, young children have a natural ability to forgive one another. Just like older kids, children may get angry and frustrated with their playmates and they often declare I’m not your friend anymore! Then a few minutes later the matter is forgotten and they are playing amicably with their counterpart again. As children get older, however, they learn some harmful habits like keeping score, expecting everything to be fair all of the time, and holding grudges. At times, parents can even be found holding grudges for their children. As such, it becomes increasingly important to cultivate and nurture a forgiving attitude. If adolescents fail to learn to forgive, their lives can become tainted with a poisonous blend of anger, resentment, and bitterness that accumulates over time. Living a life of non-forgiveness can erect barriers later in life that make it difficult, if not impossible, to live a life of wholeness and happiness.
Explaining Forgiveness to Teens
Forgiveness can be a rather complex issue to grasp, especially for young people. Human nature says to respond to the hurtful actions of others by retaliating in some way. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is the ability to let the matter go, thus liberating yourself from the anger and bitterness that can become embedded in your inner experience and make you feel bad most of the time.
An Object Lesson
One way to explain an abstract concept like forgiveness to teens is to use an object lesson. Here’s an example of a good one:
* Gather some large rocks of different sizes.
* Fill a backpack or purse with the rocks and ask your teen to put it on their back or on their shoulder. It should be moderately heavy.
* Now ask your teen to go about their normal business. The rocks symbolize the weight of holding grudges and entertaining resentment against others. Eventually the load of heavy rocks will become stressful to the physical body making everyday tasks more difficult. The physical weight of the rocks can be likened to the psychological burden that is self-imposed upon the a person who harbors non-forgiveness.
Consider the wisdom of this anonymous quote: “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Although the term “forgive” seems to imply that the other person is the one getting a great gift, it’s the one that has the ability to forgive that is receiving the most notable reward.