Forgiveness is a topic we have been discussing in religion class at Advent recently. Students watched a video about a father and a son in which the father forgives the son for lying on several occasions in order to avoid punishment. We talked about the centrality of forgiveness in the Christian faith. We’ve seen how not only is forgiveness a key part of the Christian Scriptures but also of the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the Old Testament).
A few students unprompted mentioned the story of Jonah that we had studied last semester. (I cannot tell you how thrilled I was with this firsthand experience of our students actually retaining and applying Religion class instruction!) The students recalled how Jonah was upset because God forgave the people of Ninevah while Jonah did not believe that they should be forgiven. We considered how withholding forgiveness rarely impacts anyone so much as the person who does the withholding. Students really wanted to be sure that all understood that forgiving someone for a wrong done does not mean allowing that person to repeat that behavior. If a boundary is set with another person, then that person should not trick you, embarrass you, be mean to you, or otherwise take advantage of you. Ultimately, you still forgive them for what they did. Making this distinction seemed especially important in the two oldest grades.
I am very thankful that the students at Advent have the opportunity to talk about forgiveness. Forgiving others is a healthy practice on multiple levels. It can be a challenge, but it can be a choice we make, a cognitive decision. Not only is forgiveness an essential component of faith, it is how we live together in joy and peace. Forgiveness is a gift that we can cultivate and develop if we choose.