The Countercultural Practice of Forgiveness

Despite Christ’s exhortations to “forgive seventy times seven”, the attitude of “an eye for an eye” remains commonplace in our world, whether on the international scene or in the playground.  Retaliation in one way or another is generally considered the appropriate and justified response to provocation or offense.

At Parfums de Vie, we are convinced that the practice of forgiveness is not only countercultural, but it is sacred, life-changing and necessary in today’s broken world.  We need to end violence, and history clearly demonstrates that more violence, hatred and revenge will only produce more of the same.

As you can imagine, working with kids at Parfums de Vie, there’s always conflicts to manage and resolve.  For example, the other day 11 year old *Adam helped himself to a pen in his friend *Malek’s pencil case without asking, something commonplace among the two friends, but on this particular occasion, this action somehow triggered Malek, who felt mad, violated and humiliated.  Adam’s innocent action provoked a violent outburst from Malek, who rather than using words to express his distress, violently punched Adam in the face, and we had to send him home.  Poor Adam was devastated and Malek was enraged.

The following day, Malek was still mad with Adam. Vincent explained that he really needed to apologize to Adam and to ask for forgiveness.  Malek struggled to see what the problem was and didn’t think he had done anything wrong – in his opinion, it was Adam who was wrong!  He shouldn’t have taken his stuff without asking.

Vincent gave Malek a chapter of “The Book of Forgiveness” by Desmond Tutu and asked him to read it.

He asked Malek to write down the ideas or phrases that spoke to him.  Malek spent the whole morning reading and writing.  He loved the book and felt challenged by the ideas.  It helped him to realize that he had hurt Adam because he had felt hurt, and that he could apologize, and ask for forgiveness, and that reconciliation was possible.  Malek wrote a beautiful letter to Adam, here’s a translation:

“Dear Adam,

Some people have learned to forgive.  I hope that you have learned to forgive, so that you will forgive me.

My first reaction was anger when I felt humiliated. But I should have forgiven you. 

We became friends because God brought us together. This is why I want you to know I am so sorry.”

Malek took his letter to Adam, and of course Adam forgave him.

Forgiveness is real and it changes us from the inside out!  It’s a beautiful thing to help kids grow in the counter cultural practice of forgiveness.

*names have been changed

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