Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Forgive, or Not To Forgive....

The other day, while touring Plimouth Plantation, we were able to visit the Native people area. (According to the signs, they prefer not to be called Indians.) We enjoyed talking to some of the staff but there was one woman who was sharing her opinions of how life has treated her people. I was so sad for her because she was obviously very angry and filled with bitterness.

It made me think about how all of us are handed some difficult things in life...all of us have to cope with injustice and/or hardship directed our way. While not all of us are a minority race, there is no one on earth who has not, at one time or another, been the object of ridicule or thoughtless, hurtful remarks. I have observed that people handle this type of adversity and injustice in several ways.

One is to believe that every little thing is a deliberate insult and to respond accordingly.

Another is to believe that most people mean well, but might be ignorant of the latest politically correct terminology, forgive and move on.

When we were going through infertility, people said some very thoughtless, hurtful things to me. I reacted with hurt and anger. It wasn't until years later that I realized that I was only hurting myself by hanging on to that anger. The people who had 'wronged' me were totally oblivious, while I suffered day after day.

In the adoption community, there are those who take offense to those who use the 'wrong' terminology. One should not say, 'natural parents,' or "they had some kids of 'their own' and then they adopted some." Yes, it can be wearisome to be asked for the 1000th time if my girls 'are sisters.' There are those who advise me to use a snappy comeback to put these 'thoughtless people' in their place. But you know what? The people who ask just don't know how to say, 'Were they biological sisters in their home country?" For Pete's sake... I don't know all the politically correct things to say to people for every possible circumstance, either! I might say the wrong thing to someone who is going through cancer, or has been divorced, etc. because I have not experienced those things. We need to show each other a little grace and believe that people do not have malicious intent.

I have heard it argued that our kids shouldn't have to hear these adoption faux pas all the time--it's so negative, etc. Well, guess what? They ARE going to hear it for the rest of their lives. We cannot train the entire population of our country to use the words we deem correct. Sometimes, I take the time to educate gently, but most of my efforts go toward training my kids to forgive... to let those comments roll off... to appreciate that people care enough to take an interest, and cut them some slack for not using the 'correct' terminology...they do not deliberately use the wrong words. I do not want my kids to carry around a burden of anger and bitterness toward anyone who says 'the wrong thing' to them.

My girls have also been made fun of for being Chinese. We talk about how they feel each time, but it is so important to me that they choose to forgive, so that they do not allow the ridicule to define them. The ridicule belongs to the ridiculer. He/she is the one with the problem and it cannot 'stick' to my kids unless they chose to pick up the big 0l' suitcase that says, 'Pain, bitterness and anger.' Who wants to carry that big honker around?!

I am so sad when I see that some, in their attempt to be free of pain inflicted on them, instead, end up in bondage to their own bitterness. We cannot control others and the world around us. That is why Jesus told us to forgive. It is not for the benefit of the person who has wronged us (although, that person does ultimately benefit). Jesus told us to forgive so that we could be set free! Free to NOT carry around a horrible burden of anger and bitterness. Free to embrace life and enjoy it--forgiving those 'slights' that are handed daily to all of us.

Forgiveness can be hard work, depending on how deeply hurt we are by someone else's actions. God really helped me with this a few years ago by showing me that if I made the choice to forgive, He would handle the rest. My work was to say that I was choosing to forgive, and then each time I was tempted to replay the offense in my mind ('cause let's be honest, we kinda like nursing our hurt and anger), I would also choose to direct my mind to something else. The verse He used to help me was:
"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4:8

Try it! It works! And welcome to FREEDOM!!


Kim K. said...

Wonderfully written. This is why I sooo enjoy having other adoptive Mommies to look up to and connect with. Thanks for sharing and being honest.

Shanna said...

Well said mommy! I have felt the gamut of emotion when talking to people who were truly interested in adoption, but didn't have the words to communicate. I too have found myself in that very place with different issues. Jesus said it best when He told The Father, "Forgive them, for they not what they do".
Beautiful post.

Adeye said...

Beautifully written, friend. I, too, have had to learn to just let things go. I tend to take things to heart--but God is teaching me that most times people mean well...they just don't know any better when things come out of their mouths, like you said.

Thank you for sharing your sweet heart.

Lori said...

Wow, that was really great!! I honestly have to say that since Lucy has been home, nobody has ever said anything that 'offended' me...have people worded things "wrong?" Yes. But you are so right...they just don't know any better. They aren't steeped in the adoption community like we are so they certainly don't know all the 'correct' way to say things. And that can apply to any area of life.

Forgiveness really does bring FREEDOM. Look at the freedom that Jesus has given us by forgiving.

Angie said...

We were given a "free" subscription to an adoption magazine when we signed with out most recent agency. Boy, oh, boy...talk about negativity in a magazine! After a couple issues, I didn't even read it. I had no intention of being so critical of others when they weren't politically correct about adoptions!

Shonni said...

You put this wonderfully!

Gretchen said...

That was a great post. Forgiveness, is indeed, what it is all about.

Acceptance with Joy said...


Beautifully said.

Anonymous said...

Amen...I love that!
Lyn Thomas

trustandobey said...

Hi Karin,
This is the way I see it (my 2 cents worth). Our foreign-born little ones are in the heart of God's plan to raise awareness of international adoption. They must be, because God allowed families to adopt them knowing that they would "stick out". Therefore, all comments or questions (good , bad or indifferent) are proof of God's plan and purposes in the lives of these, His youngest warriors for adoption. My girls get attention where ever we go, not always good, but none-the-less. I love it, though, because it is such an open door for the Gospel and orphan care. If the comments are ugly or stupid, that is between that person and the Lord. Let the Lord settle that score. The positive always outweighs the negative. And if we or our children must suffer in this arena, well, He said to expect it. I do agree... it can be frustrating, especially when it involves family. But what a blessing to be asked to carry this particular cross.

Holly said...

This is profound Karin.
How important to teach our children to forgive others and try to dish out some grace...even when our patience is worn thin.
Thanks for this biblical reminder.

sierrasmom said...

Karin, Thank you for this post. I too believe most people use words or phrases they have heard or learned at home and just don't know better. They really are jsut interested although sometimes.... But I love your approach and philosophy on it all!!!
PS You will LOVE NE in the fall!!