Second Chances

3 Apr

It’s that time again, where I am forced to look forgiveness in the face. I think we all are forced to dwell on what forgiveness looks like every now and again in our lives. There are times where we are looking at it because someone has wronged us and is not repenting. Sometimes we evaluate it, because that person who wronged us is requesting our forgiveness and we’re not sure what that should look like. Finally, we sometimes need to evaluate forgiveness, because we are in need of it ourselves.

While all of those are times when our life itself mandates that we look at forgiveness. Sometimes, there are situations to which we aren’t parties that we get to observe from afar. Recently, I have been introduced to such a situation. Coach Rice of Rutgers has apparently been physically and verbally abusive to his players. After seeing the video, I saw an interview with the Athletic Director, where his boss stated the punishment was a three-game suspension, a fine, and a few other things.

Honestly, my initial reaction was one of disgust. When you are dealing with young men, specifically, young men who are relatively powerless to answer back or retaliate, treating them poorly is a sign of character. There are some actions which mandate removal from the situation, regardless of what may come later. Mike Rice needs to be taken off the job immediately and the rest of his salary never paid, in addition to any punitive action against salary already paid.

I say this as someone who recognizes that he was hired to do a job. He did things that indicate he did a poor job, perhaps even fine-able elements. He also does not deserve to keep his job. How can I come across as so unforgiving when I myself have been forgiven? Do I not believe in forgiveness? I think to answer that I need to give my complete definition of forgiveness, then my picture of what restoration needs to look like.

First, I believe that forgiveness involves the release of your irritation over someone that wronged you. It does not include forgetting what that person has done so that it may never be remembered or considered. I can certainly (easy for me to say, as that isn’t my son who’s having the ball thrown at his head, otherwise, I might feel like LeBron) forgive him for his actions. Nevertheless, I would certainly not be looking to hire him to coach my basketball team anytime soon.

Are we the land of new opportunities? Yes, and no. Looking at the Final Four this year, we see Rick Pitino with the best team and probable national champions, despite the fact that he has a stormy past. Last year’s champion was coached by John Calipari, who has gotten into trouble in multiple locations for violating the rules. I think both of them have been able to revive their careers, largely because they are winners.

Therein is the rub. America is the bastion of second chances if you provide some sort of proof that you can be successful. Sports are as easy an environment to measure success as exists in the world today, but this is not exclusive to sports. Good preachers who are inappropriate (or get divorced) get second chances at other churches or sometimes even in the same church. Good CEO’s who are fired get hired again later. Even Hank Lawson got a second chance as a doctor (though, he may have made the correct decision in the first place).

I believe you would be hard-pressed to name a single profession where success at any level does not warrant you a second chance. The problem is that we do not, as a culture, give second chances to people if their shortcomings lead us to believe that they will not be winners, we are very quick to be sanctimonious in our statement that we will not allow them the opportunity again, which leads me to believe that we aren’t so good at forgiving and then attempting restoration, but rather we’re bad at having a memory of that which was bad, if it will work out for our own benefit (monetarily, winning, prestige, power, or whatever else we are seeking).

So, what do I think restoration should look like? First, it should always begin with trying to heal the faulty reasoning or action that precipitated the need for forgiveness. If that is not done, then everything else is meaningless, because similar to parenting, behavior modification itself is not the only thing that is important. Second, it is vital to realize that restoration is not about mirroring the current situation. To imply so would be to eliminate the growth God had for us in that situation.

We have to recognize that without the painful need for situations in which forgiveness is needed on one side or the other, we would not grow. Growth can be painful, but it is necessary. The maturation of my life from son of Paul and Ann to Husband of Kelly was not without its rough spots. Nevertheless, to not make those steps would have eventually been even more painful. “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

When things blossom there is a resemblance to the pre-blossoming existence, but it never looks exactly the same. How short-sighted and foolish of us to believe that a post-forgiveness existence would look exactly the same as the pre-forgiveness existence! Life is predicated upon several small moments. And, while You can never step into the same river twice, we must accept the fact that our further development will change. To properly forgive, we must be willing to accept that. We must further accept that our restoration, however different or painful we feel it is, is ultimately for our good. If we can’t go through life with that belief, we are not ready to even begin a forgiveness process.


One Response to “Second Chances”

  1. Jenni April 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    I really like this post and find it very eloquent. I think forgiveness is so big (as in, covers such a wide spectrum) and mysterious and beautiful that it is so important to always be having conversations about it. And I think they should be fluid, especially since we live a faith where forgiveness is so vital. I particularly like your closing paragraph – that we are short-sighted to think that life will look the same post-forgiveness.

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