Forgiveness or Reconciliation?

I was recently “defriended” by someone on Facebook. It’s probably not the first time, but this one was noticeable because the individual was a frequent “poster” and after a week I thought it odd that they had stopped their daily posts. It’s an odd concept to be defriended…especially without a given reason. I know one person who refuses to have more than 500 friends—so when she gets a friend request, she finds someone who is lower down on the list to “defriend”. What’s it like to grow up knowing Facebook all your life and using media as a tool for conflict management?

I’ve started paying attention more and more to what I’m teaching my kids about how to resolve conflict. It’s funny, even after law school, practicing as a public defender in juvenile court, nothing trained me for numerous mediations I do on a daily basis in my current role as mother to a 6, 3 1/2 and 2 year old. The stakes may not be high with regards to the toy they are fighting about but I’m convinced that this is the best place for them to learn how to deal with conflict. They might take a communications class in high school or college-but that’s it…yet we deal with conflict all the time.inflatables

My kids are decent at forgiveness…they will say I’m sorry; I forgive you etc. But teaching them reconciliation is a different matter because I think there is a pretty big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. I’m not upset at the person who “defriended” me–I’ve forgiven them–but there has not been any reconciliation, or restoration. One of my favorite authors on relationships, Danny Silk, talks about teaching kids, married couples, employees–well everyone really–how to clean up their mess. According to Silk, reconciliation for a lot of people is like this: we make messes all over the house–like a dog who poops inside the house–we say sorry and expect that to be the end of the story. Pretty soon we have relationships where we have lots of “messes” we have to try to avoid stepping in, because the problem has never been fixed and the messes have never been cleaned up–there has not be reconciliation. 

How do you teach kids to clean up their messes? How do you teach them that I’m sorry is essential but now someone has to do the work to fix the problem? The problem might not be that big at this stage–a broken Lego creation, or a piece of priceless 3 year old art that a certain 2 year old added his “flare” to. But the bigger thing I want them to learn to pay attention to is their heart connection with the other person. So yesterday wheninflatables my 6 year old yells at the neighbor boy who is 4, who I then find crying in a corner saying he is scared…it’s fine that 6 yr. old can say I’m sorry, but the bigger problem now is that 4 yr. old is afraid. So I tried to coach them through restoring trust, what would make our friend feel safe again? Or when my 3 year old steals a cookie after I’ve said no, eats it then apologizes…. we still have a heart connection problem–my ability to trust her.

These might be silly examples now, but they become so much bigger in marriage, in work and with adult friendships. The stakes are higher when I do something that affects my husband’s ability to trust me. And I want my kids not only to be able to fix a problem they’ve created and restore a heart connection but also be able to communicate with someone else that the way they are being treated is creating a problem. You may think I’m over analyzing this, but this is one of those things in life that I find most of us are terrible at. We pretend, we lie, we avoid, we “defriend” in the hopes that we can forget the person or the problem or that if we ignore it long enough, give the cold shoulder it will just go away. So we have relationships with walls built up, land mines to avoid, or we simply drift away from others as we let time pass. I think it is fine that this person and I are no longer friends. Life and relationships ebb and flow, but it is sad to me to think that we are no longer friends because I did something and didn’t have the opportunity to clean up a mess. But then who is to say that we would agree to what the mess actually is, in which case it is a longer process in which both of us would have to decide our heart connection is worth fighting for.

I know so many of us long for intimacy, that loneliness is rampant and that I sometimes feel ill equipped to do the work that is required to sustain deep friendships with others. But, I’m loving learning with my kids to not be afraid of problems, and to give them tools to care for others hearts as well as their own! (For more see “Loving our Kids on Purpose” by Danny Silk).



07. June 2012 by Ali Millikan
Categories: Parenting, Thoughts on Life | Leave a comment