My daughter Cricket came home from second grade in tears. Again. Her teacher had rebuked her in front of the class for asking another girl for help with a math problem. Cricket felt humiliated and stupid. And it wasn’t the first time.
Because of a learning disability, Cricket had difficulty with some subjects, particularly math. I had already spoken to the teacher – new to the school and extremely harsh in her control tactics – about Cricket’s special needs. Ignorance was no excuse.
Cricket began tearfully wrapping herself around my leg every morning at school drop-off and wouldn’t let go. I had to pry my sobbing child off my leg and force her into the classroom. My fury flared toward this insensitive teacher. I simply could not forgive what she’d done to my previously happy little girl.
I knew in my head that secondhand forgiveness is as important to Papa God as firsthand, but my angry, hardened heart balked. Forgiveness seemed too much to ask.
Like secondhand smoke afflicts innocent bystanders, secondhand forgiveness is necessary when somebody hurts someone you love. The injured person may eventually forgive the offender, but you continue to harbor resentment indefinitely. And like cigarette smoke, unforgiveness pollutes and corrodes you internally.
Secondhand forgiveness is especially hard for us mama bears when somebody messes with our cubs. Our protective instincts kick into overdrive. And we tend to hold onto grudges far too long.
We forget that that how we feel has nothing to do with forgiveness. We forgive as an act of the will, because Papa God asks us to, not necessarily because we feel forgiving. If we wait until we feel like it, we’ll never forgive anyone.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV).
But in the throes of furious indignation, how do we carry out this seemingly impossible biblical mandate? Let’s unpack this verse:
Be kind to one another. Our kindness as Christ-followers isn’t dependent on anyone else’s behavior. We don’t wait for someone to be kind to us; we show them how it’s done.
Kindness is similar to forgiveness in that we don’t necessarily have to like someone to be kind to them. Writer Samuel Johnson said, “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” Likewise, we can forgive someone whether we like them or not. But we must take the next step toward tenderizing our gristled heart.
Be tenderhearted. Heart tenderness is the willingness to enter someone else’s world and share in their suffering; it’s the step beyond kindness, usually motivated by compassion.
But not always. Sometimes we got nothin’. We’re emotionally bankrupt. Flat-lined. Empty.
Papa God gets that, yet He can begin the heart-tenderizing process even if we simply show up with an empty plate and a teaspoon of willingness.
Forgive one another. Forgiveness is the element essential to finding inner peace. Resentment is poisonous; the poison gradually spreads and chokes out the Son-light within you, leaving the darkness of bitterness in its place.
Forgiveness isn’t about changing someone else; you don’t have the power to do that. It’s about changing something within you. You don’t have the power to do that either, but Papa God does. Only He can help you unlatch the hurt you wear like a heavy, bulletproof vest and drop it to the floor so you can feel your Heavenly Father’s warm, beating heart as He embraces you.
Even as God in Christ forgave you. To truly forgive others as the Lord forgives us, we must tap into our Savior’s vast supply of supernatural grace (undeserved favor). He specializes in grace – He proved that at Calvary, when Jesus willingly paid the price for our sins and died in our place. He forgives you for your wrongs and wants you to do the same for those who wrong you. That, my friend, is grace.
Let’s face it: some people are simply EGR (Extra Grace Required). Those are the difficult people for whom you must hock up an extra helping of grace. Cricket’s teacher was definitely an EGR person who needed constant secondhand forgiveness.
Through much prayer and Papa God’s grace, both Cricket and I were able to forgive the insensitive teacher, although the school let her go after three months. It turned out that she was unable to leave her extensive personal problems out of the classroom.
Forgiveness becomes a little easier when we realize there’s always something going on beneath the surface of other people’s lives that we can’t see.
Are there any EGR folks that needs your secondhand forgiveness today?
“Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’”(Romans 12:19 MSG).
More about Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms
Do you feel like you’re drowning in the everyday stress-pool?
Wish you could make busy-ness a business so you d be a millionaire?
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Debora M. Coty lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband Chuck. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.