Think no more about it8 May 2022
A children’s story character imparts an important lesson in how to apologise and make amends.
Dear Charlotte and Ella,
‘I want the Wiggles!’ you both shout from the back of the car. Your pleading drowns out the whimsical prose of Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows audiobook. Since the scene doesn’t include a few of Mr Toad’s automobile crashes, the tale of two river-boating creatures looking for a picnic spot seems to bore you. Your exuberance for the song, ‘Who’s in the Wiggle House?’ rudely interrupts a dialogue between the characters Rat and Mole, which had caught my attention.
It all begins with Rat and Mole floating down the river for a day’s adventure, just ‘messing about in boats’. Overcome with jealousy at Rat’s sculling ability, Mole asks for a try. After Rat denies the request, Mole grabs the oars and flips the boat.
Apology and atonement
Once all is upright again, Mole offers Rat an apology and atones for his rashness. Mole begins, ‘I am very sorry indeed for my foolish and ungrateful conduct.’ He continues, ‘Will you overlook it this once and forgive me, and let things go on as before?’
Straining to hear Mole’s words over you girls’ clamoring from the backseat, this simple apology moved me. Mole’s humility, maturity, and thoroughness made this such a fine example of amends; I thought it should be taught in the schools. How many marriages, families, friendships, business partnerships, and even souls could be saved if we learned how to apologise to each other like Mole? No excuses. No blame. He honestly owns what he did wrong, says he’s sorry, and simply asks – can we be friends again?
But, it’s Rat’s response to Mole that made me listen more intently. Rat excuses Mole’s reckless behaviour so graciously, his gentleness touched me. ‘That’s all right, bless you!’ Rat continues, ‘Don’t you think any more about it.’
Rather than scolding Mole or saying Mole cannot be trusted out on the water again (which is something I might say), or keeping a secret mental account of the incident to be revisited at a later date (which is something I might do), Rat brushes off the mishap with a gracious – forget about it. Rat also invites Mole to stay with him and promises to teach Mole to row and swim.
The pair go on to enjoy the rest of the day as if nothing had happened. That’s the thing about forgiveness it keeps us in the present. Resentments chain us to the past. I thought, wouldn’t I like someone to do for me what Rat did for Mole? On the flip side, I had to admit I had work to do to be like Rat.
Greedy for grace
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself reviewing Rat’s words, ‘Don’t you think any more about it’. It’s almost as though I am greedy for a world where we dose out a little grace here and a bit of mercy there.
Jesus calls us to be merciful to each other. He said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:43-45) I can only imagine the murmurs in the crowd when Jesus preached this message the first time. Recently your father and I discussed how Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness seems more and more revolutionary as we grow older. With age, there is more scar tissue. The heart can harden over time without us noticing, especially after losing loved ones, betrayals, job losses, health issues, and don’t even mention if someone hurts your child.
Letting go of resentments is difficult. In the past, I may have stoked the embers of anger and nurtured them until they were ablaze. But now, raising you two girls, there’s too much to do for me to waste time stoking anger. I don’t have to excuse a person’s behaviour or condone their actions, but I want to follow God’s will and to nurture forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a muscle I can build. I start small and then take on the heavier resentments one-by-one. So, each day, just for practice, I try to excuse someone for a perceived slight or past hurt, showing them compassion, and remembering I have bad days too. Rather than ruminating and possibly spreading my anger to someone else, I listen to Jesus’ words, and I pray. Specifically, I pray for the person I’m angry with to have a good day. If it’s nighttime, I wish them a restful sleep and for God to fill them with His love. I ask God to grant them health, wealth, and happiness and for their family. And, yes, this prayer singes the skin. The flame of resentment burns long and strong. Forgiveness is a practice, not a quick fix.
If I exercise forgiveness, it’s easy to wish others well, and I almost look forward to it. I find myself thinking of more people to ask God to bless. Then, like Rat, I have the energy, joy, and peace of mind to enjoy the rest of my day.
Most importantly, I can offer others these little graces and mercies so that I can be open to receive God’s limitless grace and mercy.
Love, your Mum
This article first appeared in Madonna magazine autumn 2022 edition. It is part of a series of letters by Clare Deignan to her daughters Charlotte and Ella. The daily reflections on pray.com.au are taken from Madonna magazine. If you would like to subscribe to the magazine, visit Madonna magazine subscriptions.