The word forgiveness can instill a lot of emotions. From pain and trauma to perhaps a reconciliation with one who has hurt you or a quiet forgiveness that you only offer to yourself. Apologies can meld a wound closed if a person is truly sorry and pledges not repeat a harmful action. On the other side of that, insincere apologies or even none at all can give lasting effects that leave lifelong impressions.
When we’re really young kids, usually parents will make us apologize if we hurt another child unintentionally or not. Very young toddlers are just building blocks of social interaction, so having complex discussions isn’t really feasible. However, the transition from toddler to preschool or kindergarten is a quick one and other incidents will occur with other children. At this stage, kids have a small foundation of social interaction with peers, and they can communicate more efficiently as well. So, when kids hurt each other at this age, they’re brought together and someone apologizes but if certain behavior isn’t curbed and a child continues to be pushed or bullied, apologies can mean even less, because the same things keep happening and someone young is forced into reconciliation, and there really isn’t one.
Going into grade school, one common echo from teachers is that in life you’ll meet people you won’t like. That life is about working with those who you may not see eye to eye with. What they said was true to an extent yet in most workplaces harassment or physical altercation isn’t tolerated and is grounds for termination. So the important lesson of mediation can be negated if teachers force a victim of bullying to accept an apology and again, the other party unrepentant and continues the harassment. This tells a young kid that looking forward, life is going to be like that. It isn’t and shouldn’t. I think one of the worse things I’ve experienced was being forced to sit at the same table as a bully because a teacher thought, well if they sit together they’ll learn to get along, failing to observe continued indiscretions. This goes double for students with autism or another disability because they have certain limits to how they can interact and are quite defenseless against bullies.
My point with these examples and themes that I’ve touched on in other blog posts as well is that children are impressionable and a sentiment that life is unfair and to tolerate misbehavior can have a great effect on self-esteem. I remember having to accept insincere apologies while teachers were sometimes neglectful. For a person to even reach a state for something like forgiveness to be possible the situation that they’re in has to change or be addressed.
I’m older now, so I can look back through a lens of reflection that was not possible as a young kid and teen. I can say, I didn’t deserve that treatment and I can move forward because I’m not in that type of environment anymore. I don’t know if I would necessarily forgive certain things happened to me but the one lesson that I did learn to not treat others badly. Treat them how you want to be treated. A simple sounding principle. Also, when I’m at fault for something, I accept accountability and pledge not to do it again. Apologies aren’t always accepted but I learn a lesson and try not to repeat that again. I don’t want to live in a world where a kid feels as helpless as I did, and thankfully anti-bullying messages and parents are making that change to ensure students have access to a learning environment that isn’t marred by harassment because that takes away opportunities. Kids should enjoy their childhood and not heal from it.