By patti dawn swansson
When an olive branch is extended our way, we don’t always accept it.
Perhaps the wounds of a conflict are too fresh. Perhaps the scars of a betrayal run too deep. Perhaps you believe the damage is irreparable.
This happens often when a marriage falters then disintegrates into divorce. The husband has cheated on his faithful, doting wife with her best friend and she simply cannot forgive him. Ever. He might reach out in the acknowledgement that he has committed a grievous foul and he presents a peace offering as a gesture to arrive at a ceasefire, or even an attempt at reconciliation. But it’s not doable. She can’t trust him. Nor can she trust her former best friend. So she rejects the ex-husband’s overture and, by extension, the former friend’s attempts as well. She dismisses them and allows the olive branch to fall to the ground.
This might be healthy for her in her quest to move forward. Then, again, it might be unhealthy.
All of us have been maligned. I’d say it’s an unavoidable reality. You might have been the target of insulting, injurious words. You might have been physically assailed. One of your dear ones might have been accosted either verbally or physically. Whatever the case, it’s our reaction that’s important. We can say, “I’ll never talk to that person again. He’s out of my life.” Or, “It’ll take some time for me to get over what he did to me.” Or, “I’m sure he didn’t really mean what he said. We’re okay.”
The residue of a quarrel or a serious wrong-doing can carry a very bitter taste. It can linger and cling to the very core of your being like barnacles on a ship’s hull, and it knows no time frame. It can leave us without the necessary traction to move forward with our lives. Much like the wheels of a car spinning feverishly on a patch of frozen snow and going nowhere, we can be stuck.
Therefore, it’s all about second chances. After all, even the hardened criminal is freed from jail once he serves his time.
How do we get to the point of offering a second chance, though? Well, we must look deeply into another’s suffering. It is because of their suffering that they say and do nasty things about us and to us. Once we determine the root of their suffering, we are then positioned to offer the olive branch.
For example, I have a friend who discovered that his sister had accused him of molesting his daughter. There wasn’t a shred of evidence to support her charge, but she spread this nasty rumor, nonetheless. She called my friend one day just to say hello, so he challenged her on this matter. The sister denied saying any such thing, but, at the same time, she swore she would have my friend “thrown in jail” is she ever uncovered proof to prop up her allegation. That statement was a strong indicator that she had, indeed, spoken these mistruths about my friend. So, she was now plopping lies upon lies. She never did, of course, discover information to implicate my friend, who never would violate his daughter. He later discovered that his sister had also accused him and/or another brother of molesting her when they were children. She did this in front of a room full of strangers. But, apparently, she couldn’t remember which of the two had molested her.
“How can she say such mean things about you?” I asked him one day.
“I don’t have a clue,” he answered. “When I asked her why she was telling those disgusting lies about me, she lied again by denying it. I haven’t spoken to her since. That was more than 10 years ago.”
So, you see, because my friend was unable to dig to the root of his sister’s suffering, their relationship could not move forward. The wheels on their car were spinning. They were stuck and still are stuck.
On the other hand, I know a couple who operate a mom-and-pop business back home in Winnipeg. They have been ripped off by patrons and staff to the tune of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in money and/or product. They have barred some of the patrons and released a handful of employees. Yet, they almost always lift the bans and they’ve actually welcomed a couple of the dismissed employees back into the fold. That’s because they sought the reason behind the wrong-doing. Mom and Pop looked deep enough and discovered the root of the wrongful actions. These people are not stuck. They are moving forward.
In terms of second chances, I believe we can all learn from children. Observe the children. They engage in spats all the time. Little Johnny tosses sand into little Billy‘s face and they fight. But they’re usually back to being best buddies in an hour or so.
We have a tendency to look at children’s spats as trivial. While we adults battle over fidelity, mortgages, employment, social tolerance and such, the only thing at stake in a child’s quarrel is a friendship or a toy. But that is wrong thinking. To the child, his dispute can be every bit as crippling as those of adults. A child needs friends, does he not? To lose one could be quite traumatic. Although the child’s reasoning skills have not developed sufficiently to analyse—to look deep—the children still manage to handle such matters much better than many adults. They quickly forget about being mistreated and move on to the next adventure.
If we’ve been granted a second chance at some point in life, do we not owe it to another to give peace a chance?