I watch my 4 year old and 19 month old. The toddler holds out her prized stuffed animal to her big sister, showing off how incredibly wonderful Bunny is. The preschooler thinks Bunny is being offered, grabs it, and saunters off. The toddler panics, screams and clobbers her sister, rescuing the security Bunny. And the preschooler howls, justified, because her little sister can hit pretty hard and because, at age four, she knows that hitting is against the rules. And here I have, in a sense, two wronged children, both of whom were in the wrong and neither having done anything wrong. Both thought they were acting reasonably. Neither understood the other’s reaction. Both were hurt in the exchange. Both are angry. And what do I say? “Tell her you’re sorry. Give your sister a hug. She didn’t understand.” Not, note “you didn’t get hit that hard. Deal with it. What are you crying for anyway?” Nor: “Yeah, she hit you. Go ahead—hit her back.”
Which is all to say, I think that learning to forgive is part of growing up in Christ. Which from my POV is pretty cool. In forgiving, we practice letting go. We practice unselfishness. We practice looking for the bigger perspective. And we practice truth-saying. Because it is impossible to forgive a wrong that isn’t truly named in the first place. I can see myself growing that way. Getting bigger, wiser, more mature, and I don't think that it's just pride talking here. In order to fully grow up into the women that God wants us to be, we need to grow.
I think an awful lot of the time we’re like small feral children, blundering around with each other, trying to protect our own little security bunnies of pride, wealth, ego, etc. My seven year old knows enough to not try take Bunny out of the toddler’s sight. She understands that there’s only so much she can expect from a 19 month old when Bunny is threatened. That’s a step of maturity. And eventually, the toddler will grow up enough that she won’t have to haul Bunny everywhere. But she’s not there yet, nor can I expect it. But I can start to teach even her forgiveness. “Look. Your sister didn’t understand. Here’s Bunny back. He’s fine. I’m sorry you got scared.” Heaven forbid that Bunny ever gets lost in the airport.