Second Chances

“Second chances appear like a gift left at our doorstep.”  Holly Elissa Bruno

I look forward to springtime when greenery and flowers dramatically reappear. During winter, plants die off, but, in spring, many are “reborn” with a second chance at life. Spring also symbolizes spiritual restoration, celebrated on Easter Sunday. Restoration and second chances have roots in forgiveness, a character strength that psychologists Seligman and Peterson identified as universally valued across cultures. Character strengths help us survive and thrive and “bloom.” According to positive psychology, “Forgiveness means to extend understanding towards those who have wronged or hurt us….” It also means releasing “the frustration, disappointment, resentment, or other painful feelings associated with an offense” and giving the offender a second chance. Many world religions, including Christianity, emphasize forgiveness. People from many walks of life agree. Actor Peter Ustinov believes love is an act of endless forgiveness….” Radio host Woodrow M. Kroll observed that, “most people are quick to write someone off. But God is a God of the second chance.” Haven’t we all felt relief when forgiven? And receiving forgiveness can have a ripple effect, when out of gratitude, we often forgive others. Former State Senator Marvin Ashton said “Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu had a non-violent approach to opposing apartheid in South Africa. He described steps to forgiveness and healing: “admitting the wrong and acknowledging the harm; telling one’s story and witnessing the anguish; asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness; and renewing or releasing the relationship.” Tutu wrote that “with each act of forgiveness, whether small or great, we move toward wholeness.”

Forgiveness does not mean minimizing wrongs or automatically reconciling. John Wayne wisely said, “A man deserves a second chance, but keep an eye on him.” Without accountability, people sometimes take advantage of mercy. And some toxic relationships should end. Forgiveness cannot erase the impact of a transgression. But, without forgiveness, human relationships do not work, because we all mess up regularly. But forgiveness is not easy. Writer Sue Monk Kidd observed: “Forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s an evolution of the heart.” Singer Jewel said, “Forgiveness is the needle that knows how to mend.” Author C.S. Lewis wrote “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” It is hard not to revisit offenses. But actress Marlene Dietrich humorously quipped, “Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”

Some who receive forgiveness are transformed by it. The son of a friend made a terrible mistake. He had a secret graduation party, including alcohol. During the party, after drinking heavily, he and his best friend drove his jeep to pick someone up. He had an accident, and his best friend died. He was arrested for DUI and required to speak about his experience to teens in hopes of preventing other deaths. He lost a college scholarship college. He struggled with guilt and depression. Incredibly, the best friend’s mother embraced him and forgave him, despite her grief. Her mercy enabled him to heal from this tragic mistake and move on with his life. Author Bree Despain observed “We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because they need it—because we need it.” Those who forgive also benefit. In “Forgiveness as a Strength,” Sarah Monk said forgivers benefit from “physical, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, social support and improved relationships.” Monk observed forgiveness is the opposite of hate, allowing a more positive view of the offender which may heal the relationship. Monk mentioned two parts to forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness is choosing to resist unforgiveness. Emotional forgiveness is replacing negative unforgiving emotions with positive emotions focused on others, which also leads to better health outcomes. Irishman Richard Moore said, “forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.” At age 10, Moore was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier. He never regained his sight but lived a full life, promoting forgiveness and peace. Forgiveness is not weakness, it takes courage. In closing, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”

Leave a Reply