The other day I was having a conversation with one of my sons about all the times his older brothers have stolen from him. He was saying that he was done being nice to them and that he was tired of forgiving them. I said, "Do you know how many times Jesus said were supposed to forgive?" He just stared ahead because acting like he was interested would be out of character. I said, "Jesus was asked by the disciples how many times they should forgive someone. Maybe seven? And Jesus responded "seventy times seven."
Quickly my child, adept in math, said, "That's 490. Well I've already done that. My PSP was worth $225, my Ipod was worth ...." and he went on as I laughed. I explained to him that it isn't one episode of forgiveness for every dollar....
Yesterday one of my children regressed by several months (or years) to the "If you punish me, I'll punish you" approach. I yelled at said person for not getting out of bed to go to school and therefore they didn't go all day long. I grabbed their phone (had to do it very quickly otherwise I would never have succeeded) and said, "I'll give it back on your way to school" which I figured would really do the trick. There was then refusal to go to school all day because I took the phone. And then when we tried to talk about it, and I pointed out the immaturity in the logic of blaming all of it on me for "yelling", they left the house without permission and were gone all night. Thankfully Facebook allows me to connect via messages to anyone there without being their friend, so I was able to figure things out and so I'm not in a panic about the whereabouts, which was the intention.
In the midst of the argument that i thought we were way past, I had strong feelings of not wanting to forgive. I'm very very bored with the cycle and I'm also annoyed that when we seem to make so much progress we have to take so many steps back. I also wonder if our forgiveness policy hasn't made the younger kids realize that we aren't ever going to give up on them -- so they use it as license to do even more stuff and push us farther.
When I was a kid I had incredible parents (they are still living at almost 83 and 90 and still amazing people). But I never wanted to know what would happen if I pushed them over the edge so I tried hard NOT to. I didn't want to disappoint them. But our kids think there is no limit, no edge, and thus they cross what should be our line again and again and again.
In addition to last night's argument, I also had a really hard time with the unforgiving one who I started this blogpost about. He is the family's stress lightning rod and so when things are crazy here he is the one who is most anxious, and when most anxious incredibly rude and defiant to everyone. So I was struggling with forgiving him as well.
But I woke up this morning ready to forgive. And you might be thinking "how can she forgive so quickly and get over all the anger and frustration just a day later?"
You might guess that it is because of my amazing resilience and outstanding personality. Well, there is that. (Kidding). But it has nothing to do with me or my personality ... it's something anyone can do.
Another possibility might be my relationship with God and the fact that He tells us to forgive. And while that is partially a motivator, it isn't the central part of it.
There could also be the theory that I'm a compassionate person who can always see things through the eyes of my children and put myself in their shoes and that that leads me to further understanding and forgiveness. But if you know me, you ruled that out before we started theorizing.
So, why do I forgive 70 times 7? Because unforgiveness hurts the person who refuses to forgive way more than the one who doesn't get forgiven. It lies inside us, not as a dormant nagging presence, but as a force that slowly consumes us and turns us into resentful hateful beings who not only hate others but hate ourselves.
So in a twisted sort of way, forgiveness is self-serving. And as an adoptive parent, I have daily many opportunities to serve myself in this way! I choose to forgive because it is the right thing for me to do in order for me to keep going and live the life I've been called to live.
Sometimes it takes me a while to "get er done" and remove the resentment and bitterness that springs up over a situation, but I work on it because a forgiving heart feels better inside my body than an unforgiving one.
If you've been reading this post and been thinking about a person -- your child or someone else -- who you haven't been able to forgive, then do something nice for yourself and forgive them today. You'll feel so much better and you'll really be glad you did.