By Suzanne Woods Fisher
"It is better to forgive and forget than to resent and remember." Amish Proverb
It started as a small loose thread on the elbow of Elsie Miller's black sweater. It was just one thread, but she couldn't leave it alone. During silent reading periods in school, she would hold her elbows and twirl that thread ever so slightly, between her thumb and finger. Twist and twirl, twist and twirl. She thought about knotting it and breaking it off, but never quite got around to it. Her hands just naturally went to that tiny, out-of-place piece of loose yarn.
A few days later, during recess, her friend Katie pointed at Elsie's elbow. "You have a great big hole!" Elsie held out her arm to see what Katie was pointing to. She hadn't realized that the sweater had been unraveling as she twisted the thread. Her elbow was now sticking out of a gaping hole.
The thing was...Katie had a fondness for highlighting Elsie's shortcomings. Katie had much better lunches than Elsie. She was faster at running the bases during softball games at lunch. She was a crackerjack speller and spelled everyone down in bees. Katie was always two steps ahead of Elsie and made sure she knew it.
When Elsie got home from school, she showed her mother the hole in her sweater. She might have mentioned how annoying Katie was, too.
Elsie's mother, who had a talent for making life lessons out of everyday events, examined the sweater in the afternoon light by the kitchen window. "This hole reminds me of what happens when we don't forgive someone. Choosing to repeatedly talk about or think about or gossip about someone who offends us is like twisting that tiny thread around between our fingers. It won't be long before that little thread causes a festering hole."
She took out her darning needle and threaded it with black yarn. "You know, Elsie, relationships aren't always easy, aren't always perfect, aren't always free from hurt. How we choose to handle those times when we're wounded by a friend will make the difference between growing love or creating a hole."
Then she handed Elsie the needle and yarn. "It's yours to fix."
Let's Talk About It!
Forgiveness doesn't come naturally or easily to us. We want things to be fair! The Amish place a great emphasis on forgiving others—even when they aren't treated with fairness or justice. Elsie Miller grew up watching her parents model the principle of everyday forgiveness. The situation with Katie was just one example of how Elsie's parents tried to shape her response to someone who offended her. Elsie said she saw that modeling many, many times over her childhood. When someone hurts or offends your child, how have you responded?
What are some of the benefits of introducing a response of forgiveness to your children at an early age?
To follow up on the story of Elsie and Katie—their friendship smoothed out its wrinkles and deepened over time. They have become lifelong friends—forty-three years worth! Their friendship could have gone down a very different path. What might you have missed by holding on to a grudge? Is it too late to make a change?
"He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends" (Proverbs 17:9, nkjv).
Did you know?
For the Amish and all Anabaptists, pacifism is based on Jesus' nonviolent example and his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). They choose not to resist evil with force. Early Anabaptist history reveals a variety of responses to persecution, but the pacifist one soon became dominant.
About Suzanne: She is an author of bestselling fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Why the Amish? Well, Suzanne's grandfather was raised Plain. She's always been fascinated by her gentle, wise relatives. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her weekly radio show, by stopping by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. And, please, leave a comment. And consider signing up to receive this bi-monthly column arrive directly to your in box!