Last week Leighton learned a valuable but hard lesson. He was at his Ninja class which he absolutely loves (he plans on being a ninja when he grows up) and it came time to climb the rope. He has struggled with climbing the rope. The rope is thick, and high and he can usually make it part way but struggles when he gets much higher than 10 feet or so. He doesn’t yet have the strength to pull himself and use his legs to help push himself up the rope. But each week he is getting stronger and closer. The rope goes probably 20 feet or so up to the ceiling of the gym.
One of his best friends is in the class with him and he is far more competitive than Leighton is. Leighton’s friend went first and Leighton stood there and cheered him on and his friend made it to the top, I think Leighton felt almost as proud as if he had done it himself. The two had a little exchange as they switched places and I saw a look cross Leighton’s face but didn’t understand what had been said until later. Leighton attempted to climb and got about 9 feet up before he said he couldn’t go farther and came down. Just as his feet touched the ground the tears started to roll down his cheeks. I thought he was just upset that he wasn’t able to make it to the top. He held it together for the last few minutes of class but the tears continued to spill over and he came to me as soon as he was released. He wouldn’t look at his friend and asked to go as soon as possible, which was odd because the two boys usually goof off together. And so with tears streaming down his face we got shoes on and headed out to the van.
There in the van I found out that yes some of the tears were from the disappointment from not being able to climb the rope but the bigger hurt and more of the tears were because as his friend came off the rope he told Leighton “I hope you don’t make it to the top”. Which just crushed his little heart (and mine too). And so we sat in the van and cried and I tried to tell him all the wisdom that I could about how sometimes friends hurt friends and it really stinks. I told him examples of the mean things that people have told me-
“adopted kids aren’t real kids they are just charity cases” (from a “friend” who knew I myself was adopted and planned on adopting)
“You aren’t a good doctor”
“You aren’t good enough”
“I don’t have time for you”
“You aren’t smart (pretty,nice,etc) enough”
And so on.
As we talked and I hugged him on the seat of the van I told him that all those things had been told to me by friends and that they hurt but that they weren’t true. We talked about forgiveness and how if we don’t forgive others bitterness can grow in our hearts.
We were a little late getting home that evening but as we drove home we came up with a plan to write a letter to his friend and let him know that he was hurt by what was said. There have been many times that I wish I had communicated with others that what they said hurt me, instead of just being hurt by it. Sometimes people are just plain mean and try to hurt others, while other times things are said and people don’t mean to actually hurt the person they just get caught up in their own ambitions/dreams/worlds and don’t realize their words.
We sat down that evening and wrote his friend a letter that said basically, “I was hurt when you said….,and please don’t say that again because you are my friend”. He lost some of his innocence that day, but learned valuable lessons in forgiveness and extending grace to others. He’s going to get hurt again, as much as the mommy in me wants to stop that from ever happening, we live in a real world with real hurts and real people, but I hope and pray that the lessons and things we talked about will remind him next time he hurts again.
The next day Clint was driving Leighton over to the gym for some extra rope climbing practice (he’s wanted to go practice almost every day) and Leighton told Clint something very wise. He said “Daddy, every night when I’m in bed I lay there and think about my day and I have a slot in my head and if something was bad then I send it out of the slot so that I don’t remember it or think about it anymore, and so last night I sent the mean comments out of my brain so I won’t be upset about them anymore”. Man, if all of us could learn to do that instead of hanging on to whatever it is that has hurt us or bothered us that day we would all come a lot farther and there would be a lot less hurt and bitterness in this world.
And so I’m going to work a little harder on forgiving those that have said things to me that have hurt and letting them go (through the slot in my brain at night), and work on writing more letters or having more conversations on my thoughts and feelings and extending more forgiveness and grace to those that hurt me as I try and teach my children to do the same.