When I see the Ten Most Wanted Lists... I always have this thought: If we'd made them feel wanted earlier, they wouldn't be wanted now.
Eddie Cantor, 20th-century actor, singer and comedian
Forgiveness is the act of admitting we are like other people.
Christina Baldwin, Life's Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
Most children know what it is like to feel wronged or treated unfairly. Many, too, know the uncomfortable feelings that come when we realize we have hurt someone else. For either party in a conflict, it can seem natural and justified to feel angry or sad and to act accordingly. Yet "fighting back" or "staying mad" usually makes a conflict worse. Forgiveness is another option.
This session introduces forgiveness as an intangible gift with power to heal friendships and restore peace. The children consider forgiveness in the context of how they can respond if someone in Wonderful Welcome breaks the covenant the group made in Session 2.
The Wonder Box holds a picture of a dove carrying an olive branch, a common symbol for peace that also implies a willingness to forgive and a desire to be forgiven. A person who extends an olive branch is taking a brave step that puts two of our Unitarian Universalist Principles into action. Extending an olive branch says, "I affirm your inherent worth and dignity, as well as my own (first Principle)," and, "I want to promote justice, equity and compassion in our relationship (second Principle)."
In the story, The Prince and the Rhinoceros, one friend breaks another's trust. The other takes the brave step to seek an apology, and once the apology is received, completes the healing with forgiveness. Learning about forgiveness enriches the children's understanding of welcome. In a truly welcoming environment, people accept the possibility of conflict and understand how to use forgiveness to restore peace.
This session will:
- Introduce forgiveness as an intangible gift
- Explore situations where forgiveness is appropriate and identify ways to express forgiveness
- Show how forgiveness helps us live our Unitarian Universalist Principles, especially the first Principle (inherent worth and dignity of every person) and the second Principle (justice, equity and compassion in human relations)
- Demonstrate that authentic welcoming must include a readiness to forgive
- Engage participants in the spiritual practices of opening and closing rituals
- Explore the value and the challenges of giving and receiving the gift of forgiveness
- Through role-play, learn to use forgiveness to resolve conflict in their own lives
- Plan consequences for breaking the group covenant
- Reflect on a story in which forgiveness brings peace between friends and helps them accomplish something together
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