"It takes two people to communicate," my professor told us last week. "It takes two to argue," she continued, "and when that argument is really bad, when people say things they don't mean, when they break trust, when they lie, and when feelings are involved, well, at that point it takes two to forgive."
The pain, the anger, and the disappointment of being hurt by a loved one is inevitable. It happens. When it does, it's how, why, and when you deal with the pain that changes the future. Forgive, forget, or both? That's your choice. But most educators feel that forgiveness is necessary, not for the other person, but for yourself. Let it go.
If you choose to move on from the friendship or relationship because that's the wisest choice for you, don't feel that every other person will hurt you just because one did. You can't have that miserable outlook on life. You have to forgive people for their mistakes, even if you never let them back in your life. The pain will teach you, and the forgiveness will heal you.
Sitting in the lecture that day, it was clear that many of my college classmates had never experienced this type of open class discussion about forgiveness - no other teacher had ever given them the opportunity to speak their minds, to say what they feel, or to learn from the wisdom of those around them. Many educators do not open the floor to such abstract concepts, and hopefully that changes in the future. Kids need to learn about forgiveness, trust, love, and family in school as well as at home.
The discussion came full circle for me when my professor talked about healing, wishing those who have caused us pain to be well, and when she said, "any questions about forgiveness?" It reminded me of a class taught at Pinkerton by Jim McMahon. He opens his classroom to discussion. He encourages teens to forgive, to heal, and to be good people.
Jim renews teen's faith in religion, family, friendships, and education. He teaches about the "good, right, and true" in life. He told us when we were being foolish, and also when we made a good choice. Pinkerton Academy students who have been blessed to have Jim as a teacher are ahead of the game. He taught us about forgiveness when we were young and needed to learn about it, and we have been practicing it for years now.
Theologist and author Lewis B. Smedes once said that if you're mad at someone, holding it in your heart is a burden for you, even more so than the other person, because at that point it's out of their hands. In Smedes' words, forgiving does not erase what happened, but instead it heals the soul and it brings hope for the future. You can't avoid it, you have to conquer it.
"When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it," Smedes said. "We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, [we] let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it."
Although most of the time forgiveness doesn't come that easily, forgetting doesn't either. When you forgive, you're not saying what happened is OK. You're saying that you care about a person enough to trust them again, and to work through the problem. When you forget, you have accepted what happened and want to look past it. When you do both, you are letting yourself heal, and many times you're making sure that you move on without that person in your life. That's not always a bad thing, as long as you can find it in your heart to let go of the anger. It takes a long time to truly forgive, but at some point, according to Smedes, you will know that you have forgiven because you will be able to think of the people who hurt you, and wish them well.
My teacher instructed us to write a letter to someone we need to forgive. She told us to have one person in our life do the same. We don't have to give the letter to the person if we don't want too, but she wants us to heal our own minds and souls. "Happy forgiving," she said, "and happy healing."
Ashley Chamberlain, a 2005 Pinkerton Academy graduate, is a senior at UNH. She is in her fifth year as a Derry News columnist and intern.