Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gentle Class

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.

As I write this, my 4-year old is teaching her first class. She has one student. The name of the course: Gentle Class. Her 13-year old student/brother, who adores her, has been playing too rough. Call it a case of “don’t know your own strength.” Or maybe it is the mental disconnect in teenage boys that leads to shows like MTV’s Jackass. But for the third time in a week, my daughter has been injured while playing with him. Last night was by far the worst. The kind of night when you can’t tell where the blood is coming from and your grateful for the horrifying screams because that means your child is at least still conscious enough to scream. It happened in a flash right in front of me.

She survived to play another day with a busted lip and a severe case of road rash on her face. It was a teachable moment for all of us. Except my daughter, who is ready to lead her own workshops. You see as soon as her little body stopped shaking and she could talk without howling in pain, she wanted to see her brother. She wanted to make sure he was okay. That he didn’t feel bad. She wanted to know exactly what her father and I were going to say to him. Since this wasn’t the first time we have talked about reckless behavior, I couldn’t dismiss this as an accident. Sure, the outcome wasn’t intended. I didn’t want to impose guilt or punishment. But there had to be more than another conversation. Today is a spectacular day that was not spent outside in the sun or at baseball practice. My son spent it writing the following affirmation over and over.

My safety and the safety of others is important to me.  I will think about consequences before I act. I am aware. I listen. I learn from my mistakes.

When he woke up this morning and saw her face again, he fled to his room in tears. My daughter immediately asked him to play with her. He couldn’t. “I have to write.” At lunch, she asked him to push her on her swing. “I can’t. I have to write.” It took her constant persistence, but he eventually let her climb up on his lap. She snuggled in like there is no better place in the world. Than she started working on me. Would I let him out of writing to take her class? Using her butterfly catcher as a pointer she pointed to an imaginary blackboard. “We don’t hurt. We don’t make people cry. We are gentle.”

Her lesson extended far beyond what she could write on the invisible board (if she knew how to spell). My son taught a lesson too. When we hurt others, it is so easy to stop trusting ourselves and retreat in our guilt. But separating ourselves from the injured doesn’t make anyone feel better. 

Can you forgive yourself when your in the wrong?

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: More Gratitude = Less Grudges. According to research by Portugese psychologist Felix Neto published in The North American Journal of Psychology, people who are grateful are also measurably more forgiving.

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