One afternoon several months ago as our family was chatting and making evening preparations, the conversation turned to the topic of how to handle situations where people don’t treat you very kindly. I related to them an experience from my school days where the basketball coach invited me to be on the school team. I didn’t think it was going to work because I was committed to the church’s early morning, daily bible study class for teenagers that overlapped with basketball practice time. After explaining this commitment to my coach, she assured me that they were supportive and I could just come late to practice.
I was excited that they were so accommodating, and happy I got to be on the team………except that when I got there each morning the coach yelled at me, called me church girl, and had me do my own separate punishment-for-being-late drills away from the rest of the team. After a few weeks I FINALLY got the courage up (with a friend waiting just outside the door) to go to the coach’s office to let her know that I was quitting her verbal abuse—-I mean her basketball team. I’m pretty sure my hair blew back with her foaming at the mouth, gnashing teeth, and name-calling. (QUITTER! QUITTER! QUITTER!!!).
I cried all the way home.
Fast forward several weeks after I shared that story with my kids, when my then eight-year-old son started telling me about some of the “fair weather friending” and other playground drama that he was upset about. I thought I was taking the teaching opportunity by the horns when I said, “You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but Jesus has asked us to forgive and have good feelings toward all.”
With raised eyebrows and head cocked a little to the side, my son looked at me and said “Uhhhhhh, are you gonna forgive that basketball coach that was mean to you when you were a kid?
I DON’T THINK SO!!!!”
Ha! Apparently, I was the one in need of “the teaching moment on forgiveness.” I hadn’t even realized I was still holding on to that resentment after all these years. So, after I picked myself up off of the GIGANTIC carpet I was just called on by my little boy, and regained composure from laughing at the irony of it all, I started on my forgiveness action plan. Wyatt helped me with the first step, which is recognizing unresolved negative feelings towards someone. I find that writing down or otherwise expressing these feelings in detail can also be very helpful in this identifying step if you don’t have an eight-year-old.
The next step in my action plan is prayer. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians to “Pray without ceasing.” So I pray for help to remember to keep praying in my heart even when I am carrying out my daily responsibilities. I pray for help for me to have a soft heart, for help to let go of the pain but hold onto the lesson, and for my coach to be able to have the same help with her pain.
I know there are much more traumatic events that people have gone through than kindness-challenged “mentors”. But I also know that God can help us forgive anyone of anything, no matter how big or small.
Moroni (one of my favorite Book of Mormon Prophets) says: “And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33)