Elephant in the Dark

I truly enjoy reading books with my children.  This should come as no surprise after my Read to Your Child post.  Picture books with a good message are my weakness.  One of my favorites is a Cautionary Tale of Flattery called The Spider and the Fly.  On my last trip to the library, I had the pleasure of finding Elephant in the Dark.  Prior to reading it, I knew nothing of this book nor the story it was based on, which is commonly called “Blind men and an elephant.”  It’s truly a fascinating perspective, and ironically, once I explain the gist of the story, it has several different interpretations.

There are several variations of the story, as I’ve learned from my Google research.  Seeing as how the version of Elephant in the Dark by Mina Javaherbin is the one that piqued my interest, I’ll summarize her version the best I can.  The story begins with Merchant Ahmad, who brings a mysterious creature back from India.  The news spreads in the village and everybody wants to see the creature, but Ahmad is too tired from his journey, and explains that it is too dark in his barn to see the animal at this time.  The villagers, not taking no for an answer, decide to sneak into the barn and take a look for themselves.  One by one, they go in, and each of them touches a different part of the elephant (a tail, a tusk, a trunk, etc.).  Since they each only touched one part of it, they come back out reporting the creature was like something completely different from what another person had declared.  Then it reads, “All day long they called each other names and fought to prove each other wrong.  Into the night no one listened, but everyone shouted and shoved.”  Then, the next day Ahmad awakes and takes the creature to the river, which we now see is an elephant, but the villagers are still too busy fighting to see the creature appear.  The last line reads, “And no one noticed they each knew only a small piece of the truth.”

Elephant in the Dark

As I finished reading Elephant in the Dark, I concluded that every adult needs to read this book.  My Facebook has become so cluttered with who’s right and who’s wrong, that it’s disheartening.  I realize you already heard my rant on this topic in Accentuate the Positive, but this book just brought it to the forefront of my mind again.  It also reminded me of this quote I read by the US Secretary of Agriculture and 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson.  He said, “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.”  Religious or not, the idea that being right is more important than the whole truth gets us nowhere as a society.

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have an adamant opinion on all things.  Starting this blog made that more evident in my life.  I knew if I had a more extreme opinion on a matter, I could draw a larger audience.  Shock factor sells, right?  At first I thought I was just too ignorant to form an opinion on hot topics.  Then I realized, it’s that I can see where others are coming from, for the most part.  I’m not perfect in this way by any means.  But I would like to believe that I don’t just go into the barn, feel one part of the mysterious creature, and assume I know all based on that single instance.  I have opinions on all sorts of things, don’t get me wrong, but I also understand that it’s my opinion.  Some of my opinions have facts to back them up, some don’t.  The last thing I want to do though is ever express my opinion in such a way that demeans somebody else’s viewpoint.  I don’t want to fight about who is right.  I’m okay with learning more about the whole creature.  But, I’m also okay with being considered wrong in someone else’s eyes.  On that same note, I’m also okay being wrong in my own eyes.  For me, it’s not about who is right, but what is right.  Because of that thinking process, I’m not afraid to learn more.    I want to understand the whole creature.  Period.

I love one of the interpretations of this story, made into a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet,which Elephant in the Dark is based on.  Rumi’s poem ends with, “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear.”  I think of that line and wonder what our world would look like under those circumstances.  I imagine, as it pertains to this story, we would all be unified in understanding it was an elephant, but we would still have our opinions on the creature.  Perhaps one person would find the elephant ugly, and another would find it breath-taking, but both would agree it was an elephant. Neither person needs to be wrong in their feelings towards the elephant.  We can respect differing interpretations of the creature, while simultaneously agreeing that there is a greater truth that there is no disputing.

Oh, how I hope I was able to express my feelings on Elephant in the Dark and it’s greater meaning.  The concept was over my toddler’s head, as I read the book to him.  But, I’ve found myself reading it over and over on my own.  There is much to take away and ponder about this story.  Take a moment and reflect on the story, if you have some time.  I would love to hear other’s feelings on the matter.

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First Friday Find: #OptOutside

Maybe you noticed that I went MIA last week, maybe you didn’t?  I’ll chalk my absence up to time spent soul-searching.  Much of what I found wasn’t pretty, so I’ll refrain from bringing you down in the rabbit hole with me.  Instead, we’ll focus on the fact that I am here this week and ready to give you this month’s First Friday Find!  It’s a simple one, but one that is close to my heart.  Today’s First Friday Find: #OptOutside is shared more to offer my support for the movement than to offer some breakthrough discovery.

Perhaps you have already heard about #OptOutside?  It is REI’s tagline/hashtag indicating that their stores will be closed on Black Friday, and that their employees will receive paid time off.  Let that sink in.  This action is bigger than it seems.  Black Friday has practically become its own holiday, much to my disappointment as noted in One Holiday at a Time.  Imagine a store that sells flowers closing the day before Valentine’s Day.  That is a hard hit to their profits.  Maybe this won’t be the case for REI.  They very well may receive record profits based on increased purchases made either before or after Black Friday, as a sign of consumer support for the movement.  And if they do, all the better.  We reward our own children with positive reinforcement, why not do the same for retailers?

This backdrop is my picture. It's no wonder I've grown to love the outdoors so much.
This backdrop is my picture. It’s no wonder I’ve grown to love the outdoors so much.

My love for this movement is not motivated solely by my disinterest, and partial disdain, for Black Friday, but rather what they are promoting in place of shopping.  The outdoors in place of door-buster prices is pretty cool.  I get it, they’re an outdoor company, of course that would be what they would promote.  My thing is that this movement is a nod to the passion that sparked the inspiration for such a store in the first place.  This may sound cheesy, and perhaps it’s the part of me that has blossomed since living in Oregon, but it’s as though the store is willing to put aside materialism and give a shout out to wholesome activity, nature, and their (and our) roots.  Pun intended.

It’s funny, people who know I am a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have asked me, “What if you’re wrong about your religion?”  If I’m wrong, I will live out a life filled with serving others, keeping my body pure both physically and morally, and striving to be the best person I can be each and everyday.  If I’m wrong, I’m still right with myself.  That’s how I feel about REI’s movement, I guess.  If it’s all for added publicity, so be it.  Either way, I know REI employees are spending time with their loved ones, while being paid, on the day after Thanksgiving, and I am satisfied knowing that at least one company is saying no to the disheartening sense of materialism that surrounds Black Friday.

I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant here about First Friday Find: #OptOutside, but I failed to share the portion of this movement that is the real find of the month.  If you go to the Explore the Outdoors page on REI’s #OptOutside website, you can put in your Zip Code and it will give you suggestions of trails to visit in your area.  Luckily, I live in a city known for its outdoor activities, so I lack for nothing in the way of #OptOutside opportunities.  However, if you haven’t yet, I suggest you find ways to #OptOutside, not just on Black Friday, but whenever possible.  We live in such a beautiful world.  I’ve yet to see anything purchasable be more magnificent than God’s creations.

Read to Your Child

One of the biggest reasons I started this blog was to keep things real.  That being said, I’m really not feeling positive these days.  I’ve actually been hitting up old journals with therapy notes and re-reading my own posts for some inspiration and pick-me-up.  Maybe the change that comes from a move is affecting me?  Perhaps it’s the sadness of knowing that another one of my littles is off at school a couple of times a week?  Or possibly I am entering the lovely world of lows that come with Bipolar II?  Who really knows?  Regardless, it seems foolish for me to write something upbeat, when I’m hardly feeling that way.  I’m not going to get all Debbie Downer on you, but no real words of encouragement this week.  Nope.  Today is a simple reminder about the importance of reading to your kids!

At the end of the day in our home, my three oldest kiddos get to have down time while I put my baby to sleep.  Customarily, this equates to TV time where they argue over whose pick it is to choose the show.  Last night, my second-grader said she didn’t want to watch TV and that she wanted to snuggle with me instead.  What mom can say no to that?!  Then she asked if I would read books with and to her?  Even better!  She is so good about reading on her own and already reads so much for her school reading log that I forget to take a moment and read to her anymore, it seems.  So, we snuggled up and read books together taking turns reading out loud.  My other two littles had just reached the end of their show and bedtime was nearing.  However, my daughter and I were still in the middle of a book, Mr. Pine’s Purple House, and I was just as excited to finish reading it as she was.  Soon my toddler and nine-year-old huddled around my daughter and I.  I continued reading on, not before noting the beauty of the moment I was in.  Here I was a mother of four, with one baby peacefully sleeping, and three beautiful children sitting around me all listening as I read about Mr. Pine’s desire to simply have his home stand out among the other fifty white homes on his street.  Those are the moments I cherish.  Those are the moments that make me realize that perhaps my life isn’t really all that boring, but merely simple.

Earlier in the day I had already done a bit of reading with my toddler so that we could fill up his reading chart, and my girls had all met their reading quotas and then some.  There has been an increase of reading in our home since school started back up, and I’m loving it!  The greatest part is that my baby, well 15-month-old, has a love for books already also.  One of his first words was “book,” and I couldn’t be happier!

Read to Your Child

I’m reminded of the picture I saw on Facebook posted by Southport Branch Library that read, “There is no app to replace your lap.  Read to your child.”  Reading to my nine-year-old, as I did last night, has become more rare as she develops as a reader.  But, I truly believe that all of those many years that she sat on my lap as I read to her have helped her love for reading blossom.  And now, four kids later, I’m realizing that no matter how busy life can get, the time spent reading to my children lifts each of us up in so many ways.  There really is no app to replace my lap, and how grateful I am for that!

Can Do Attitude

It’s probably no surprise that a family of six with a single income can be strapped for money at times.  It was one of those times recently, and I was feeling stressed about it.  I had a prayer in my heart to find some guidance, and it wasn’t long before I was inspired.  I had the privilege of hearing Gary E. Stevenson give a talk during General Conference.  In his talk, he expressed his agony over all of his inadequacies, and then said, “I received a distinct impression which both chastened and comforted me: to focus not on what I can’t do but rather on what I can do.”  While he was speaking in terms of his personal insecurities, my mind quickly applied this to our financial situation.  Then, as the week progressed, I saw how I could apply it to every aspect of my life.  Having a can do attitude is one of the ways I’m striving to accentuate the positive, as I wrote about last week.

Can Do Attitude

This is not a ground-breaking idea.  We’ve heard variations of this same concept countless times.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs reminders of simple truths, then finds them lying in plain sight.  When I was in therapy years ago, I would have these “ah-ha” moments and come home to tell my husband about it.  He would respond, “Isn’t that the same thing that I’ve told you for months?”  I would respond back to him, “Yes, but she somehow said it differently and it clicked.”  Or perhaps it’s just my belief in the “two makes it true” theory?  Who knows?  The point of the matter was that THIS quote clicked, and I’m going to share how all-encompassing this concept really can be.

My weakness is eating out.  Oh, how I love it.  A good cheeseburger is practically therapy for me, and so much more affordable.  But when money is tight, nothing is considered affordable, is it?  So, instead of feeling glum about not eating out, I thought about how awesome it was that we had enough money to get all the groceries we needed.  I began to think about how cool it was that I had dishwasher detergent already, so I didn’t have to hand-wash my dishes.  The more time that went by, the more opportunities I saw that I DID have in my daily life.  I could take my kids to the park and play.  I could go to the library and check out as many books as I wanted.  I could go on a walk with my friends.  There was so much that I could do!

Then, I went and did something dumb.  Well, it wasn’t dumb at first, it started out quite awesome!  My daughter was the “Super Hero of the Week” at school and each day provided something special for her to either share or do.  Friday was “Bring a Buddy to Lunch.”  Guess who got to be that buddy?  And guess who COULD be there for her daughter?  That’s right – me.  Lunch with my second grader and playing with her on the playground was the awesome part!  I happen to love going on the swings, so I made a point to get some swing time in.  The thrill of being so high that I go above the bar is the real highlight for me.  I was feeling pretty proud of my skills.  As I was slowing down, I underestimated how high I still was from the ground.  It should be noted that I do not normally jump off swings.  I’m a wuss that way.  I totally thought I was lower when I made the leap off the swing.  Oh, how wrong I was.  I landed unsteady, stumbled a bit, spun around, realized my fate included landing on painful wood chips, and fell flat on my back.  All I could do was laugh.  I was mortified.  I’m pretty sure only my daughter and a couple of kids saw me (or at least that’s what I told myself to keep intact whatever bit of my ego I had left).  My sweet daughter helped me up and brushed all the wood chips from me.  Thankfully, it was time for me to go, and I was able to escape my embarrassing moment.  Unfortunately, I could instantly tell that I had injured my big toe.  So, you see, it all started out awesome until my one dumb move came into play.

I quickly began cursing myself and realized that I had a painful situation on my hands (or more literally, my foot).  Walking became more and more arduous, as the adrenaline of the event wore off.  That’s when I fell into the wicked trap of “can’ts.”  I began to focus on all the things I could not do with the injured toe (like those walks with friends that I mentioned above that I could do even with low funds).  How grateful I am that the quote above was still fresh in my mind.  I decided to focus on all the things I could still do instead.  The most important of them being that I could still get down with my boys and wrestle that night.  I could still sit to fold laundry the following day.  I could still kneel for bedtime prayers with my family.  There were so many “cans” left that didn’t involve pain in my toe.

I’m finding that a can do attitude truly is a beautiful way to look at life.  It doesn’t need to be used simply as a source of motivation, it can be used as a method of comfort.  I suppose that’s the difference I found in Stevenson’s quote versus any other variations I had heard prior.  What I can do does not have to be limited to achieving goals or benchmarks.  A can do attitude can be a pulse check to all the good that already exists in one’s life.  I know that’s the affect it’s had on my life these past couple of weeks.  It hasn’t always been easy to avoid thinking of the “can’ts,” but it’s amazing the level of peace I feel when I recognize how many more “cans” are in my life.  I even got to thinking about how this month’s First Friday Find: Zach Anner was another great example of a can do attitude in motion.  He may very well be the epitome of this way of life.

Honestly, it’s been pretty fun to acknowledge all the things that I can still do despite tight funds and a sprained toe.  I really have a lot going for me.  So, the question is, what CAN you do?

Accentuate the Positive

Lately, the amount of negativity in the world has left me unsettled.  Social media and the news being the biggest irritants on the matter.  Surprisingly, neither of those were the source, when I became truly fed up with this issue.  The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Not a Liberal.”  Simple statement, right?  Not much worth fussing over.  However, I was struck by the verbiage of that remark.  Why say, “Not a Liberal?”  Why not state that you are conservative?  My takeaway was that this driver is so against being liberal, that he would rather state how much he is not liberal, rather than celebrate what he is supporting of in life.  I see no benefit in shaming another point of view to state the beauty of your own.  This is the way life seems to be delivered to us now.  We’re given news through a series of one liner blurbs that either leave one feeling great about who they are or shaming them for their opinion on a matter.  Why can’t we simply “accentuate the positive,” as Gordon B. Hinckley states in his book, Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes?  As much as I would like to copy and paste the entire chapter, Optimism in the Face of Cynicism, from this book, I will refrain.  But, oh, what beautiful things we would see in our world, if people took the time to nurture the ten neglected virtues mentioned.

Accentuate the Positive

The concept of focusing on the positive first struck me when I was kneeling in prayer with my husband years ago.  He was saying the prayer and asked that our children be protected from harm.  Perfectly normal thing to pray for and I echoed his words in my heart.  However, I began to realize that when he asked that they be protected from harm, my mind drifted off to the terrible harms that could potentially come their way.  When it was my night to pray, I began to switch around the wording to ask that our Heavenly Father watch over our children or keep them safe.  Omitting the word “harm” kept my mind in a more positive place.  I do the same with my children now, as we kneel in family prayer and it’s my turn to say the prayer.  I ask that they all have sweet dreams and get a good night’s rest.  Whereas, when my children pray, they ask that they not have any nightmares.  We want the same thing, but the manner in which we present it makes a difference, I believe.  One of my daughters will sometimes even pray that, “no fires will burn our house down and no bad guys will steal [them].”  I want to be fire free and kidnap free even more than she does, but those words trigger dark images in my mind.  Our words have a great impact on our attitudes and outlook.  Such a simple change in verbiage can either lead me to greater peace or greater anxiety.

This topic of optimism is so far-reaching that I don’t intend to wrap all my thoughts into one post.  Tonight, I simply wanted to encourage us all to contemplate how we are approaching our daily activities and experiences.  Are we expressing ourselves in a negative manner or potentially conjuring up negative thoughts by the words we use?  Are we stating who we are by stating who we’re not?  I’m a Christian woman with the understanding that we have a Father in Heaven, a Savior, the Holy Ghost, and then Lucifer standing on the opposing side.  I don’t give Lucifer the privilege of crediting his name by saying, “I’m not with Satan.”  Instead, I say, “I know my Savior lives and loves me.”

A relevant and real life example of the change we can make in our approach is how the city of Roseburg, OR handled the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC).  The community asked that the gunman remain anonymous.  Instead, the focus was shifted to Chris Mintz who was noted as a hero for having been shot seven times, as he was rushing the UCC shooter.  This is a tragic event that I cannot comprehend enduring nor do I intend to discuss further.  I simply find the action of accentuating the positive virtues of one man, in the face of calamity, as admirable and inspiring.

I’ve learned that changing the wording of my prayers has brought me greater peace.  I no longer use verbiage that amps my anxiety or lets my fears take over.  Now the goal for me is to understand where else in my life I may be expressing myself in a negative fashion.  As I sit here contemplating where I can improve on this matter, I’m reminded of the quote by Tom Peters that I shared in Musings of a Mom, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”  Perhaps it’s time that I see how I can uplift my children more by accentuating the positive rather than focusing on the negative?

As I mentioned, this topic of optimism could infiltrate so many aspects of our lives, and tonight is not the time for that.  Tonight, I close with a plea for each of us to accentuate the positive!  If you have an experience where you made this shift in your own life, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Happy Weekend!

First Friday Find: Zach Anner

If you’re new to my site, let me briefly explain what First Friday Find is about.  Every first Friday of the month, I like to share an app, website, or idea that may not be widely known.  I don’t get any incentives from any companies or individuals that I mention.  I simply like bringing goodness into others’ lives.  It’s a fun way for me to share things that have either helped streamline my life or lifted my spirit.  This month is a find that brought about the latter.  One of my friends is seriously the funniest woman I have ever met.  There has never been a time when speaking with her that I have not laughed hardily.  So, when she posted a link on Facebook to Zach Anner’s video on YouTube with the comment: 1. I want to be friends with this guy. 2. I don’t think I have laughed this hard, ever. This is no small statement. 3. I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Made my day! I knew I had to check it out.  Zach did not disappoint, which is why this month is First Friday Find: Zach Anner.

The first video I saw of Zach Anner’s was the one that my friend had linked to that was called Baby Steps – Workout Wednesday #2.  I’ve watched this one several times and I laugh equally hard each time and am simultaneously inspired by Zach’s uplifting words and positive outlook on life despite his challenges.

On Zach’s YouTube About page, he says that he, “makes videos for your enjoyment and [his] embarrassment.”  I would definitely agree that it is for our enjoyment, but I would add that it is for our edification.  I’m reminded of the quote by Michael P. Watson, “Strong people don’t put others down…they lift them up.”  In my mind, Zach Anner is one of the strongest men I know.  He has uplifting words to share in each of his videos.

Strong People

I thought about including more links here, but it’s hard to pick out my absolute faves.  Instead, I’ll stick with sharing his High Five Friday #1, which is a great example of him lifting others.  I mean if he can dish out a high-five for someone going Vegan, he’s definitely doing his best to make the world a better place.  Seriously though, the person that deserves a high-five on this Friday is Zach Anner!  May we all learn to live life with as much humor, determination, and optimism as this man does!

And that, dear friends, is our First Friday Find: Zach Anner.

5 Steps to Better Forgiving Others

Last week, I spoke in a church meeting on the topic of forgiveness.  The feedback I received immediately afterwards was so overwhelming, it made me wonder if maybe more people need to hear this message.  I spoke about forgiveness from a different angle than I usually hear it.  Customarily, I hear the importance of why we should have a forgiving heart.  The two largest reasons being – first, so that the Lord will also be forgiving towards us (Matt 6: 14-16); and second, studies show that an unforgiving heart can be unhealthy for our physical and emotional well-being.  Regardless of your spiritual stance, the latter reason makes it imperative for all of us to be forgiving.  My talk wasn’t about why, I wanted to know more about how we go about forgiving.  After reading a few articles, I settled on five ways to help become a more forgiving person.  Because I am Christian, some of these steps will be faith-based.

5 Steps to Better Forgiving Others

1. Sincere Prayer

I read a fascinating speech given in 1997 by James M. Harper, a marriage and family therapist.  Harper stated, “Our attitude in prayer will help transform our grieving, angry hearts into forgiving hearts.”  His statement is the perfect way to show that forgiveness begins with the softening or changing of our own hearts.  I’ve found that when I pray sincerely, it is not that I need to forgive, but rather that I need to ASK for forgiveness from someone.  That is the beauty of honest prayer, it helps us to become humble.

2.  Accept that forgiving the offender, does not mean you excuse their behavior

Quoting Harper again, he said, “I have seen survivors of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse struggle with the doctrine of forgiveness. They often feel that if they were to forgive, it would let the offender off the hook or would minimize the hurt and damage. Yet they fail to realize that transforming their heart to a forgiving heart is a gift they give themselves. It will do far more for them than it will ever do for their offender.”  Having experiences of being hurt by someone, I know in some instances, I wanted the offender to hurt, as I hurt.  Karma, if you will.  I’m not saying this is right, but that is what my instinct wants to do.  Forgiving them feels like I’m freeing them from consequences.  How bold of me to think that I am somehow their judge, when there is only one judge they have to face and my decision to forgive has nothing to do with their salvation, but merely mine.  In the book Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis, it reads, “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior; forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.”

3.  Avoid storytelling about an offense

This one piggybacks the last item for me and is my biggest weakness in failing to forgive.  When I’ve been hurt, my impulse is to discuss the matter with my husband and my friends.  First, I like to check in and see if I’m out of line for feeling the way I feel.  Then, honestly, it’s to round-up my support group that I hope will have my back.  The support group’s role is to make me feel justified in my feelings and to come to my aid when necessary.  Again, not right, but that is my tendency.  Upon learning more about forgiveness, I’m realizing how detrimental and counter-productive this is to forgiving others.  I justify my storytelling as okay, because I’m merely looking for support, but I am perpetuating the offense and adding fuel to the fire.  Harper states, “In retelling a story about how we have been offended, we can tell it in such a way that we either push pain, anger, and grief deeper into the cells of our heart or we free ourselves…Don’t let the negative storytelling consume your relationships with others…Don’t put energy into unforgiveness; rather put it into transforming your heart.”

4.  Avoid dwelling on the offense

I have met people who struggle with this step, and I admit that I have faltered here a time or two.  I have spoken of and recounted offenses in my mind that I have claimed to have already forgiven.  Sadly, I have even held disdain towards certain offenders, even though there were no recent events that would give me any reason to do so.  In being around other people who, like me, have perhaps not completely let go of hurtful events, I see the pain and strain that it causes in other relationships in their, and my own, life.  As we dwell on our offenses and rehash them in our own minds and with others, we prevent ourselves from healing.  I recently saw a quote that drove this message home, “To heal a wound, you need to stop touching it.”

5 Steps to Better Forgiving

We often hear this message in a similar phrase, “Forgive & Forget.”  I read a study, known as the White Bear Experiment, by Social Psychologist, Dr. Wegner, that speaks about forgetting or suppressing a thought.  The study concluded that if you try to focus on NOT thinking about something (or forgetting a sin or offense in this case), you actually end up thinking about it more. So, while you may have good intentions of “forgetting” the offense by trying NOT to think of it, you’re likely bringing it to the forefront of your mind even more so.  A solution would be to try to replace the thought with something more positive.

I have been hurt by “repeat offenders” before and I find that I am most at peace when I focus on the good that the individual brings into my life.  None of us are perfect, and I find that replacing my negative feelings or frustrations with positive experiences not only improves the relationship with the offender, but it also frees me from dwelling on the offenses.  Plus, this shift keeps me from retelling the offense, when I’m naturally focused on it less.

5.  Do kind acts for the offender

I have to admit, this is one concept I had not even thought to do. It wasn’t until I read an article in a children’s magazine called “Janie’s Seventy Times Seven,” that it even occurred to me.  To summarize, Janie is frustrated with her little brother, Jimmy, constantly breaking her crayons, bugging her, making mistakes, and so on. She goes to discuss the matter with her Mom and says, “I forgave Jimmy for getting into my stuff and told him to keep out of my room forever. He didn’t Mom. He’s wrecking all my stuff.” Janie’s Mom asks Janie to read a scripture about forgiveness, then Janie replies “It says to forgive seventy times seven. That’s way too many times. It isn’t fair at all.” Janie’s mom replies, “Wouldn’t you want the Savior to forgive you more than once? Think about it. Maybe you could try teaching Jimmy how to take care of things. Jesus Christ said to do good to those who offend you—even your enemies.” Janie then takes a notebook and starts tallying all the times she has to forgive her brother, since she’s convinced that she doesn’t have to forgive him anymore once she reaches 70 times 7 (or 490 times).  But with each mistake her little brother makes, Janie does as her mom suggests and either teaches him the right way or does a kind deed for him.  After a few days, her tally gets to 12 out of 490 and she throws the paper away.  She later tells her Mom that she didn’t need to keep track of the times she had to forgive him because, “Jimmy doesn’t seem as annoying as he used to.”

My take away from the story was that Jimmy didn’t stop making mistakes, none of us do, it was Janie that worked to have a change of heart.  It’s her change of heart that brings us full circle to step 1 – sincere prayer. Sincere prayer is the first step to forgiveness, as it teaches us to heal or transform our own hearts, so that we have the strength to forgive, even when it may not be easy, or even when someone might not even ask for forgiveness.

I don’t know where I fall on the forgiveness spectrum.  I’d like to think I’m a forgiving person.  However, studying more about forgiving others, I’ve learned I have room for improvement.  Storytelling of my offenses or dwelling on them is something I struggle with, while doing kind deeds had not even been considered before.  There have been times where I had practiced the replacement of negative thoughts with positive ones, and there were times where I learned to hold my tongue regarding offenses.  In reflecting back on those moments, I realize that I was more at peace with myself.  That is the place I want to be in my life, and studying this topic reminded me of that.

Hopefully, reflecting on these 5 steps to better forgiving others will help you, as it did me.  May you find the calming peace that a forgiving heart brings.