It had been an excruciatingly long drive. I was about four, my brother two. My family had driven from Pennsylvania to California and I was in a very sour mood. Seat-belts were a big issue that my mom and I had been fighting about for around forty hours. We were physically and emotionally drained, but my parents decided to meet up with our cousins at the San Diego Zoo. When we got there, my bubbly cousin (we’ll call her Sadie) flounced around asking everyone what they wanted to see at the Zoo. She asked my brother, he replied snakes. Then she came to me.

“What do you wanna see, Lysi?”

I stubbornly crossed my arms, glaring at her. “Anything you don’t,” I hissed.

She, completely unfazed, chimed, “okay!” and skipped off.

This is an example of what my cousin is generally like. She’s super optimistic, happy, bouncy, and outgoing. She’s incredibly talented in musical theater, a genetic lottery win, funny, highly intelligent, and, as will be demonstrated in this story, forgiving.

Just last year, my grandma and I flew to California to visit this family. I was Sadie’s ‘birthday present’. She had no idea I’d be there, so surprising her was quite fun. Well, actually, she hadn’t even realized I was there until my aunt pointed me out.

If we skip ahead, I had spent about a week with them, so I was getting the hang of the schedule. Sort of. Sadie and her younger sister were in the Little Mermaid (which means that I watched that play at least four times in one week). I got to help my aunt out backstage as well as see what Sadie’s life was like–since she practically lives on stage. Then came the long anticipated night when Sadie finally got to play Flounder, she was super excited. And, as with most adventures, that was when life took a completely unexpected turn.

Sadie, her sister, and I were joking around in Sadie’s room. I threw a pillow at Sadie in a teasing manner. I think the universe was conspiring against me in that moment, because the memory foam pillow hit her hand–which was holding her phone–at the exact right angle to knock the phone into her mouth and chip off a good portion of her tooth. She lurched forward, coughing and spluttering, some blood ending up in her hand. When she saw the piece of tooth, she jumped up and ran downstairs to our grandma.

My grandma managed to calm us down a bit as we sat on the stairs waiting for my aunt to come home. Sadie sat fairly far away from me, occasionally throwing a small glare my direction. The scariest thing wasn’t the penetrating glares it was the fact that this was the first time I had ever seen her cry (and so far, the only time). We all split up after my grandma’s speech; Sadie slamming the door to her bedroom shut as she was racked with sobs; my grandma and younger cousin in their shared room, crying (in my empathetic cousin’s case–she’s so sweet) and praying; and me, hiding in the far corner of the bathroom, crying and trembling in fear of what was to come.

What if Sadie hated me? What if they kicked me out onto the street? Would this tear Sadie and I apart? Would we ever be friends again? Did I just lose another friend from a stupid mistake? Would they send me home early? These were some of the thoughts running through my head as I texted my mom saying that I thought my aunt and uncle were going to kick me out of the house. And, I know now this was a little bit dramatic, but I was genuinely scared that it would be the case.

I grew ever more fearful when I heard my aunt run into the house, yelling for Sadie. I could feel my heart race as I heard Sadie saying how I chipped her tooth, but I didn’t hear any context so I was worried it sounded like I had punched her or something. Which wouldn’t be all that surprising if she were a really annoying or terrible person, but she isn’t! They all rushed to the dentist, leaving me with my grandma.

I’m glad I can say that this story has a happy ending. The dentist was able to fix Sadie’s toot. And, apparently, her sister’s cavity–that she apparently had–costed more than the cap on the chipped tooth. They were both able to perform that night, and everyone came home smiling (except my uncle, but he just kind of has a serious face; I like to think he’s always smiling on the inside).

The amazing thing to me about this story is the forgiveness. While it may not be a very life affecting trial, I genuinely thought I had broken my cousin, not just her tooth. But the whole family had gotten over it in less than an hour. I was stunned. I had been sitting on their couch looking like a pufferfish from how much I’d been crying, and they were having a jolly time. They forgave me. Because of that, now we can laugh about the memory with fondness, like the first story I shared in this post. If they hadn’t forgiven me, we’d be in a much worse place. And they didn’t just forgive me, they comforted me and assured me that everything was fine. They joked around to cheer me up and did what they could to help me feel better.

I can not even begin to emphasize how essential forgiveness is in life and how valuable it is (I’ll probably be writing a few more stories on it). But I feel the need to explain that forgiving is from something bigger, something more special. It’s a fragment of love. Think of it this way: love and charity are a tree, forgiveness is but one of the branches, reaching out to those that need it. When we honestly forgive others, we let go of their mistakes and welcome their value and potential into our hearts. We see them as what they could be, not what they are, and we are one step closer to loving them (not necessarily in a romantic way), fully and perfectly.

But that’s from the perspective of the one forgiving. I want to express to you how uplifting it is to be forgiven. Of course, at first you feel bad for your mistake, but when you can see that the other(s) forgave you, it’s that much easier to forgive yourself. And forgiving yourself is another huge deal. We can not expect to fully forgive others if we do not first forgive ourselves.

I invite you to love everyone, even those who wrong you, with a love unshakable by our world, and to express that love to them through big or small acts every day. I invite you to forgive yourself and then to forgive those around you. I promise that you will feel so much happier afterwards, and that you will feel true peace–for the liberating feeling from forgiveness is like no other. I also invite you to see others through God’s eyes, to look at them like you would a newborn; for all of the things they could be or do, as opposed to what they have already done or who they are currently. This is where everlasting love lies. This is where your escape hides.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” –Lewis B. Smedes

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