Kids say the darnedest things. But when 3-year-old Holland, the daughter of blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom, explained what “forgiveness” means, she did it in a beautifully heartfelt and simplistic way. And while kids are known for their outlandish statements (seriously — where do they hear these things?!), this little girl happened to be pretty accurate with her definition, single-handedly reminding us all to soften our hearts a little more often.
Backstrom described the evening’s events — which included some pre-bedtime arguing — that led to the moment the 3-year-old took it upon herself to go ahead and be the bigger person and “forgive” her mom:
“My daughter and I just had a knock-down, drag-out bedtime hour,” the mom wrote on Facebook. “Finally, about ten minutes ago, I put her to bed and through clinched teeth said, ‘I love you, Holland, but not another word tonight. You are going to sleep now. I’m done fussing over stuffed animals.'”
Of course, her daughter had just one more thing to say. The words that came out of her mouth, however, were definitely unexpected.
“‘Mommy,’ my three year old said, staring me down with venom in her tiny voice… ‘I FORGIVE YOU!!!'”:
The mom was surprised to hear this and followed up by asking her daughter if she knew what “forgiveness” meant. Her response proves that this tot is wise beyond her years.
“‘It means you were wrong, and I’m tired of being mad, and now I’m going to sleep and my heart won’t have a tummy ache.’”
The mom ended the post by noting that this was not only a humbling moment for her as a mom, but it could also serve as an important lesson for everyone.
“Tonight I was taught a lesson in forgiveness by a three year old,” the mom wrote. “It was a gut punch, too. And you’re dang right I climbed in that bed and loved on her. Because to be honest, MY heart had a bit of a tummy ache. I was reminded by my toddler to never go to bed in anger. Because when you do, your heart will have a tummy ache. And you know what? I’ve been alive for 35 years, and I’ve got to give it to her: She’s not wrong.”
Psychologists, meanwhile, say that forgiveness is somewhat of a complicated matter. Psychotherapist Nancy Colier, however, has defined forgiveness as a type of “freedom” in her writings for Psychology Today:
“Forgiveness, ultimately, is about freedom,” she writes. “When we need someone else to change in order for us to be okay, we are a prisoner. In the absence of forgiveness, we’re shackled to anger and resentment, uncomfortably comfortable in our misbelief that non-forgiveness rights the wrongs of the past and keeps the other on the hook.”
She goes on to write that withholding forgiveness — holding out for a change from the other party —can actually leave us powerless.
“What we want from the other, the one we can’t forgive, is most often, love,” she writes. “Forgiveness is ultimately about choosing to offer ourselves love—and with it, freedom.”
Or in other, simpler words, forgiveness is releasing anger so that our hearts don’t have a “tummy ache.” Which, honestly, sounds like the healthiest course of action for all parties.
Well said, Holland. Well said.