Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Leader Resource 1, Three-Step Forgiveness Letter
- Paper and pencils for all participants
- Newsprint sheets generated in Activity 1, Law, Crime and Punishment
- Optional: Newsprint, markers and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Decide how you will lead the participants to write Forgiveness Letters. You may want to do any or all of these:
- Read aloud the directions and examples for each of the three steps outlined in Leader Resource 1.
- Provide copies of the leader resource to all participants.
- Write the directions and examples on newsprint and post.
- Print Leader Resource 1. Make the copies you will need, and/or write directions and examples on sheets of newsprint, and post.
- If you have taken it down, post the newsprint with punishments for particular offenses the group listed in Activity 1.
- Think of a few examples of breaking a group covenant, to prompt the children's ideas.
Description of Activity
Children practice forgiving others in a way that validates their own feelings of hurt and betrayal while preserving the dignity of the person who has broken their covenant.
Direct children's attention to the three steps of the Forgiveness Letter posted on newsprint and/or copies of the leader resource. Go through the directions. Explain that it is very important to go through all three steps. Say, in your own words:
If you only write the feeling letter without coming to forgiveness, you will just be stuck in your anger. If you just write the forgiveness letter without writing the feeling letter and the response letter, it may feel fake.
Then, invite children to think about a time when someone hurt them by breaking a rule or committing a wrong. The rule might be a written rule, but it may also be an unspoken rule, such as a covenant between friends about how they will treat one another, or a covenant between parent and child about what is fair.
While children are thinking, hand out blank paper. Then, ask each child to write a Feeling Letter. Say:
Write your feelings to the person that upset you. Imagine that they are listening with love and compassion, the way you would have liked them to listen in the first place.
Read aloud the Feeling Letter example from the leader resource. Challenge children to express their feelings briefly, in two or three sentences. Tell them, "When you write a Feeling Letter, it is usually best not to send it. It is just to clear your mind of the anger and resentment."
Give the group several minutes to write. Next, tell the children they will write a Response Letter. Say:
This is a letter from the person to whom you have written the Feeling Letter. This letter is not to be sent, either. Write what you wish and imagine the person would respond to your Feeling Letter, now that they know your feelings. Do not have them only apologize. Have them write that they will take some action - an action that would make you feel better. An action that shows they are truly sorry and are looking for a solution.
Point out the sheet of newsprint which lists the punishments the group generated earlier in Activity 1. Suggest the list may give children some ideas for what they wish the person would do as part of their apology. Read the Response Letter example from the leader resource. Give the children a few minutes to write their Response Letters on the same sheet of paper.
The final step of writing a Forgiveness Letter is another letter from you to them. This letter will be just a few short sentences that express your forgiveness and love. If you cannot forgive them yet, tell them you want to forgive them.
Distribute new sheets of paper. Read aloud the Forgiveness Letter example and give the children a few minutes to write.
When children are finished writing, ask how they think the process they have just gone through and/or giving the actual Forgiveness Letter to the person might help them forgive the person who has hurt them. Ask:
- Does a punishment need to be part of the solution?
- Can we forgive without apologies or punishments? Why, or why not?
Remind the children that this is just practice for when they want to write a real Forgiveness Letter to someone, though if they like, they can give the Forgiveness Letter to the person they wrote it to. Then say:
While the Feeling Letter and the Response Letter are not intended to be shared, the things you wrote in those letters may have helped you know what you want to say to the person who hurt you, and what you wish they might say back.
Suggest children rip up their Feeling and Response letters or place them in a private place, such as their personal diaries or journals.
Make sure the children have decided what to do with their three letters before moving on to the next activity.
Including All Participants
If any participants may struggle with this level of writing assignment, offer all the children the options of drawing the three steps as pictures or dictating their letters to an adult. Make sure you have drawing materials as well as writing materials, and a space where a child can tell an adult what to write in privacy.