Please Forgive Me
When people mess up and then apologize, how should we react? In this week's Torah portion (30:2-3) we learn that God forgives those who strayed from Him once they sincerely apologize. We can learn from here to forgive other people, too.
In our story, a kid fights, then fights to forgive.
"And an evil flying giant destroys the entire city!"
Josh looked on in horror as his friend, Mike, took a flying leap and came crashing feet-first onto the beautiful sand castle they'd been working on together all morning, completely destroying it.
"Jerk! I can't believe you did that!" Josh yelled out over Mike's loud cackling laughter.
"Come on, it's funny!" Mike insisted.
But Josh was not amused. He was so not amused that he wouldn't talk to Mike or even look at him.
"C'mon, it was just a joke!" Mike said.
Josh turned his head away and didn't respond.
"Barbecue's ready, guys!" Josh's dad called out. Their two families had gone on the lakeside outing together and as they sat down to eat, Josh made it a point to sit himself as far away from his ex-friend as he possibly could. Mike edged closer to him.
"Look, I'm sorry," he said. "If I knew you'd get so mad I wouldn't have done it."
Josh ignored him, picked up his plate and walked over to the far side of the campsite.
A few minutes later, Josh's brother, Ken sat down next to him.
"Hey, what's going on?" he asked.
"Nothing," Josh shrugged.
"Don't tell me it's 'nothing,'" Ken said, "when two guys who are usually closer than a burger and a bun are suddenly colder than the dry-ice pack in the cooler."
Josh eyed his brother then blurted out the whole story. "...So why in the world should I accept the kid's apology? I'd been working for hours making that sand castle! Does he think he could wreck something that took so long to build and just expect it to be all right?"
Ken nodded and Josh felt sure he understood and agreed with him. Then the older boy turned to him and said, "How long are you and Mike friends?"
"You mean used to be friends. I dunno, five years or so, why?"
"I was just wondering why it's so bad to wreck something that took hours to build but it's okay to wreck something that took five years to build?"
"What do you mean?" Josh asked.
"Think about it," Ken said and walked off.
Josh did think about it. It was true he and Mike had been friends a long time and that Mike had felt bad and apologized. But did that mean he had to forgive him?
After lunch, Mike was sitting by himself, bored, tossing some flat rocks, skipping them over the surface of the lake.
"Hey, nice triple-skip. Okay if I join you?"
Mike turned his head and was surprised to see Josh.
"Josh? Yeah, sure. You mean you're not mad anymore?"
"Nah, why should I stay mad about a few grains of sand, when I have a friend who's worth his weight in gold!"
Q. How did Josh feel about forgiving Mike at first?
A. He was mad and didn't want to forgive him.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like their friendship was worth a lot and forgave Mike.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. When someone does something mean or thoughtless to us and then regrets and apologizes, we can feel like not forgiving him. However, it's usually better for us and for him, when we do.
Q. What do you think Josh's brother meant about 'wrecking something that took five years to build'?
A. A true friendship isn't something that happens overnight. It gets built up over time through the experiences that friends share - sometimes even the difficult ones. Good friendships are something special and we should work not to let them fall apart.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Should we forgive those who don't regret or apologize for what they did?
A. To the extent that forgiving them in our hearts will help us move on in our lives, it can be a positive thing. However, we needn't and probably shouldn't express this forgiveness to such people and we should certainly do what we can to protect ourselves from them in the future.
Q. Is there a spiritual outlook that can help us to forgive?
A. It is a spiritual fact that nothing can happen to us and no one can do anything to us unless it's God's will. It is also so, that God only sends us what is for our ultimate best (even though we can't see it that way). Therefore, if someone says or does something unkind to us, we can remember he is only an 'agent' of God's will and therefore it will be easier to forgive.