Sometimes I think people misunderstand the meaning of the word forgiveness. defines forgiveness as: the act of forgiving or the willingness to forgive. It goes on to define forgive as: to grant pardon for the remission of an offense, or to give up all claim on account.

As I look at forgiveness I think about the last definition mentioned, the one referring to giving up all claim on an account. That means no more holding a grudge, or “you owe me”. To me it means that I have given up claim on whatever the person did to wrong me. But it does not mean that I have to continue to allow them to wrong me.

Sometimes this is where our society gets a little messed up. I have been in abusive relationships in the past (far more than I would care to admit) and I am trying to focus on forgiveness as a release of any claim that connects me to my abuser. I forgive those people who abused me because I need to get them out of my life and not allow them to have control over me. Forgiveness does not mean allowing them to continue to abuse me. Instead it is about me releasing my connection to them.

One of my past abusers is someone who has remained in my life, my brother. While I choose not to see him, spend time with him or include him in my life, he is still a part of my parent’s life, and therefore I know what is happening with him and I do occasionally have to see him.

I recently learned that he is suffering from cancer. He is going through radiation and chemotherapy and is in a hard place in his life right now.

I admit to not knowing exactly how to feel when I first found out he had cancer. I wasn’t really sure how to react. I wasn’t happy or relieved as I thought I might be. I also wasn’t sad or despondent as I might be for another one of my family members.

My first reaction was worry and concern. Worry for my parents, as they are the ones who have taken on the responsibility of caring for him. Concerned for my nephews, his sons, who are also the ones who have to deal with this first hand.

I am at a place in my life where I can honestly say that I forgive him for what he did to me. It has definitely taken me a long time to get there, but I do forgive him. But in a selfish way, I did it for me, not him.

I used to fear him. I used to hate him. I used to make myself sick thinking about him. But in my forgiveness I found freedom. I am no longer fearful of him. I no longer hate him. I no longer get sick thinking of seeing him.

I am working on forgiveness of my ex-husband. That one is more raw but I know that I need to forgive him for myself to move forward.


Little things

little things

A recent post from a blog I follow made me think about the little things we do for others and how big a deal those things can be.

I’m a principal of a middle school. And as much as we try to prepare the new 7th graders for middle school, it is always a challenge.

They go from an elementary school where they have two main teachers all day, are walked to all of their classes as a group, and even go to the bathroom as a class most of the time, to a middle school where they have 6 teachers throughout the course of their schedule, they have lockers (with combinations), they are responsible for walking to their classes on their own, in general they have a tremendous amount of independence that they have never had before.

Things happen and sometimes kids get lost. On the first day of school I was working with one of my 8th grade teachers to deploy iPads to students and a 7th grade student walked into his classroom by mistake.

Rather than simply tell the child they were in the wrong room and point him in the right direction, the teacher stopped what he was doing and said, “Wow, you did all the right things, and followed your schedule great. Sometimes there are mistakes and we end up in the wrong place.” Then the teacher walked with the student to the right class, never once making him feel like he had done anything wrong.

Later on, in that same teacher’s class, that same student wandered into the class asking for help. He didn’t have the teacher; he was just lost, again. Once more during the day, the student asked the same teacher for student. The student was in 7th grade and the teacher was an 8th grade teacher so the teacher never had this teacher on his schedule, yet he kept coming to this teacher for help.

During lunch on the second day of school I asked the student if he had any problems on the first day. He said he got lost a few times, but there was a history teacher who helped him.

I asked, “Was he one of your teachers?”

He replied with a grin, “No, but he was so nice to me the first time I got lost in his room, I decided that he would probably help me when I got lost again.”

And he was right. Taking the time to validate the student for trying and not making him feel bad about being lost, this teacher not only helped him find his way on the first day of school but he also helped him feel confident about asking for help.

Effort not an excuse

photoA friend of mine recently shared with me her new favorite quote “When someone truly cares about you they make an effort, not an excuse.”

This is something that I have learned a lot about over the past year. When you are going through hard times in your personal life you learn who your friends are. But I think it goes beyond just friendships. I think that this quote is also about the way in each people approach life.

I work with people all day long. I’m a principal of a middle school. I’ve been in education for a long time. I have dealt with students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff and community members. When things get tough people tend to do one of two things: they either make an excuse or they make an effort.

Those who make an excuse, tend to blame others for things that have gone wrong. They find an excuse for why it isn’t their fault. They try to place the blame on someone else, anyone else.  Quite often they try to place that blame on me for being the one who called them out on their behavior.

On the other hand, those who make an effort accept responsibility for their actions and try to figure out how to make a change. Some people, when being called out for doing something they shouldn’t, will apologize and try to learn from their actions. They make an effort to improve or change their behaviors.

I can usually tell the way in which a student will react by how their parents react when I call them. If I call a parent and they try to deflect the blame, the student will usually also try to deflect the blame and make an excuse for why their behavior is wrong. But when the parent accepts responsibility for their child and makes an effort to improve or at least address that behavior, the child will also usually make an effort to learn from it as well.

Teachers react much the same way by either making an excuse or an effort. When confronted about a situation that happened either in their classroom or with a student some teachers will make an excuse: the kids behaved differently in their class because I was in there, the students aren’t capable of doing what the we expect them to do, the parents aren’t supportive enough, I wasn’t supportive enough, and the excuses go on and on.

But other teachers reflect and think about what they can do to make things go better the next time. They make the effort. They take responsibility and want to make it better next time. I find that those teachers who take responsibility doesn’t even need me there to call them on something, they make the effort right away reflecting on what is happening in their classroom.
Clearly working with people who make an effort is easier than working with those who make excuses. In my role as an administrator I am continually put in a position where I work with people to get beyond the excuses and put forth the effort. I listen to the excuses, and then I try to help the individual get beyond those excuses and help them to see the part they played in the situation and focus on the effort they can put in to improve the situation. It is definitely a lot of work, but when you can get someone to see beyond the excuses and begin to make an effort, it is definitely worthwhile.