The Art of Forgiveness and Friendship

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I would like to start this journey with a quote by Ritu Ghadourey about forgiving others for hurtful actions: A broken friendship that is mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was. 

As I entered the US for the first time since 2015, I noticed right away how deeply divided the country was (and still is)- more so than when Barack Obama was president. The first impression of this was how the media was involving itself. Once toted as the main source of information to allow us to think about the events, talk about it and even take action, America’s media today  is making the decisions for us, without even allowing us to think of the reasons for the actions taken by President Trump, his members of the Oval Office and the special investigations councillor Robert Mueller, who is trying to dig dirt and undermine the president. With each character coming on screen to muckrake on both sides, one has to wonder if this is just another Hollywood film that is screaming to be booed and jeered. And with each repetitive claim by the president that there was no collusion between him and Russian president Vladimir Putin, how many times will he say it (even when jumping up and down on the trampoline) until we all figure out that he’s indeed a liar and a crook.

We do know however, that despite my detestation of watching Trump and all his cronies on TV while having breakfast, we do have one variant that is working against us: With each action committed on both sides of the aisle, regardless of hate crimes, bashing media outlets, making false statements and the like, we are hurting ourselves and others, to a point where we may never talk to our neighbors, friends and family members ever again. Our belief in the media is deceiving ouselves and not allowing us time to think about the issues at hand.  And our actions towards others is making it difficult for us to come to terms with the people we hurt the most.

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Inspite of this however, I learned most recently that even the most painful actions done onto others can be forgiven, if one is willing to reach out and ask for it. In some cases, it can forge friendships that are better than the last one. I have a couple examples which show that forgiveness can be sought and new friendships created.

A few months ago, a friend of mine from Arizona, named Calvin, was approached by a former high school classmate named Jared after a 20+ year absence. Both of them were playing American football at a high school in Tucson; yet Calvin, who was too skinny to play lineman, was bullied by Jared and several other players, who were three times his size and thought he was gay.  One day, Jared had the cheek to pee in Calvin’s sports locker. Upset that he was being treated unfairly and was not getting enough support by the coaches, Calvin quit the team and eventually changed schools, where he ran in cross country and excelled in fine arts in Casa Grande, graduating with honors and eventually moving onto college at the University of Minnesota and later into teaching in Osnabrück in Germany.  We met while I was an exchange student and we shared some stories of our time playing football in high school. We both hated the sport as we were “bench-warmers,” which was equally as degrading as being bullied. Jared reached out to him one day in May after Calvin wrote of his experiences of being bullied on facebook, in response to an increase of cyberbullying at his former high school in Tucson. Jared was principal there and had to sit a person, who was robbing others of lunch money down, and tell him what he did to Calvin. He looked him up and reconnected. Then after reading his article posted on facebook, Jared wrote a long letter of apology to Calvin explaining that his lack of self-confidence was the catalyst to doing what he did to him. In response to the letter, Calvin forgave him, explaining that what was done was wrong but it’s nothing compared to what is going on in the present. 

In the present means the days of social networking, cyberbullying, grooming, happy-slapping and the like. Let’s put it this way, as much as I was bullied in high school 25 years ago, I was thankful that the internet did not exist in its present-day form. Otherwise, …….

Calvin’s suggestion to Jared was the same as offering a good starting point: “Together, we can set examples for other kids to understand that what is being done to others, even online, is wrong and not tolerated.”  In other words, the willingness to make peace and work together to ensure that no one else gets bullied  were two giant steps to forging a good friendship and they have since been on good terms. 

Yet sometimes people can hurt each other to a point where they basically break off all ties, even if one was unaware of the actions committed. Sometimes such actions can be the result of the “My way is the highway” mentality. Others have to do with cultural and personal differences between the two people. Normally when ties are cut like that, then it is too late and even impossible to make amends.

That is unless one of them reaches out to ask for peace. This happened to another friend in Kiel, a while back and to this day, he’s figuring out the reason why and finding ways to reforge a friendship with this girl. Her name was Karin and she and Nick were attending college in Berlin in 2014. She was a very nice girl, as Nick described her- a deeply devoted Christian, kind but had that magic that got Nick interested. They had been working together on a project when they suddenly “butted heads” during a dance at one of the assembly halls.  How this happened was not explained but attempts to reconcile even online failed, and they broke off all contact after the project was finished, but not before havig hurt each other verbally, resulting in after-effects that were lasting for months after the break-off. Nick was moving on with his life when Karin suddenly re-appeared on his facebook page, offering peace to him. In response, Nick replied that under the conditions that we’d meet and talk about it would that be considered. Two hours of deep conversations brought forth forgiveness and establishing the building blocks for a restart, despite them having partners and full-time jobs.  Yet this example came with a lot of strings attached, which was the fact that she was not ready to be friends just yet; she needed time as the healer though they are still communcating to this day but not on facebook. Nick is hoping that it will happen someday as it would give them a chance to chat online about their jobs and families and just be friends. Let’s hope that their road to friendship is a smooth one there.

But looking at both examples, one has to ask ourselves how much damage has the United States done to its people and ts allies. The country has alienated its long-time allies of Europe and Canada and embraced Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, although with the third example one can agree with re-establishing ties with Kim to a certain degree. The US has alienated its own people while our president is watching families and friends fight over politics, like it was a wrestling match. And even the media outlets are equally bad with each one having their own “Mean” Gene Okerlund and their sets of wrestlers trash-talking to the audience. No wonder why we have a combination of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Spanish Civil War all at once, when American society is conditioned to think one way or another. To sum up the situation, we’re living in a society where the media has control of the lives of Americans, and Americans can choose who to befriend and who to dump, based on which political alliance they are in, thus polarizing ourselves, our friends, family members and our neighboring countries. A sad devlopment and one that could destroy the fabric of democracy should the trend continue.

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Stern Magazine

Yet inspite of all this, I have learned to separate politics from friendships and family to avoid any inner-strife. But most importantly, to forgive others for their mistakes. Yet it will be a difficult drive to make amends with the  people we hurt the most. While some allies like Canada and Great Britain will be ready to forgive right away,  others like France and Germany will be even more difficult because of the damage inflicted already. But the most difficult will be the ability to trust each other and be willing to work together. That includes rebuilding the trust between the government, the media and the people. I guess it is similar to the example with Karin and Nick. If one person offers peace then it is because the other has the characteristics that is liked (and blessed in Christian terms) and that the person wants to reforge a better relationship than before so that they can work out the bigger problems they are facing. And we have more than enough to go around.

After the third day of listening to politics at a hotel in Pittsburgh, I decided to tune it out because it was a waste of time and energy. I decided that if people want to know more about our situation in Europe in comparison with the US that we would be truthful about it, but ensure that we are not enforcing our opinions onto them but to get them to understand the situation from a neutral person’s point of view.  At the same time, however, I’m taking an advice that was based on the stories that I just presented with Jared and Calvin on one end, but also with Nick and Karin on the other. If we hurt the ones that care for us, regardless of difference and opinion, we apologize and forgive. Forgiveness is free and can forge better friendships than in the past.  And this is what is needed in this day and age as we have bigger issues to handle and little time left to get them done.

And with that comes a pair of quotes to end this topic on how to reforge a friendship through forgiveness:

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Forgiveness is the best form of love. It takes a strong person to say sorry, yet it takes a stronger person to forgive. 

 

Fl Fi USA

 

 

Disclaimer: While these two examples are true stories, for the purpose of protecting their identities, the names of the people mentioned as well as the places where the stories took place have been altered. 

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Holiday Genre: Time to Forgive

 

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Another typical German Christmas tradition we usually see during the holiday season are the commercials. Using special themes that connect Christmas with family and love, store chains produce scenes that bring family and friends together, following the events that happened during the year as well as basing some of them on personal experiences of people working there.

Two commercials come to mind that were televised during the holiday season, both of whom focused on the theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness of the sins committed against family, friends and even mankind. Forgiveness which means starting over again and mending the ties that were ripped apart because of war and conflict that didn’t need to happen but it did.  Forgiveness which means loving again.

In the first holiday commercial, forgiveness meant reestablishing a bond between a parent and a child. In this one, produced by the German grocery chain Penny, the mother seeks out to her daughter, years after they had a fall-out during the daughter’s pregnancy. The mother’s journey was like a walk in the woods- meeting obstacles that were as painful as it was recalling the memories of the two together. The end result is not what is expected except that they both came home:

 

In the second commercial, the scene took place in the future, where artificial intelligence invaded mankind and chased the humans away into forests and other dugouts. While the three-legged machines looked for other natural life forms- most likely to kill off, one of the robots discovered the holiday the humans had been celebrating after coming across first a poster of a show entitled “Wonderful Christmas” and then a Christmas tree and pieced together how the celebration took shape. While reenacting the scene with manequins didn’t function, the robot sought human life to better understand their life, taking with it, the Christmas star to give to the family that it found. In the end, the grocery chain Edeka offered the viewers a glimpse of how two groups can come together:

While the theme forgiveness was clearly in connection with events that have unfolded since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017- name any conflict, because he had his hand in the apple pie- it showed how conflicts can permanently damage a relationship in ways the parties cannot comprehend until years later, when it is all too late. When Siegmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minster mentioned in an interview that Germany was breaking off ties with the US on foreign policy, it had to do with conflicts between both countries on virtually everything, combined with accusations (mostly were considered fake) and the unwillingness to compromise. The damage has, according to Gabriel, become irreversible that it may be impossible to mend ties, even after Trump leaves office. Other countries have also expressed concern that America will be so isolated that it will become something like in the commercials above. But perhaps this wake-up call is needed in order to come to terms and realize that we need to work together and forget about our egos or even our nostalgia.

Maybe by looking at the commercials we can come to terms and try and forgive, regardless of how long it takes. ❤

 

fLfI WINTER

Genre of the Week: Rocker Rudi and Friendship (From the Siebenstein Series)

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Friendships: A delicate relationship between two people with common values and are willing to help each other whenever it is needed. There are many types of friendships that exist, starting with the closest friends who grow up together and are partners for life, then friends you know from your work or school with whom you go to concerts and other public events, and lastly, colleagues with whom you work together but not have much for personal relationships. While in the United States, making friends is as fast as getting married within a year after meeting your true love, and one can have over 900 friends but only a handful of best friends, Germans tend to take friendships as seriously as the way they treat their books- they are sacred! That means only a dozen friends with whom you spend time with regularly. And for colleagues, “….working relationship please! I don’t want to know about your daughter’s graduation from Gymnasium!”

Making friends in Germany is a delicate task, even when you have some people on your wish list, whom you want to befriend. Seriously, we all have a list of that kind, even if it is engrained in our heads! I personally have one too, albeit with only a couple coconuts I’m trying to pry open. 😉 But seriously, establishing a friendship can be a delicate task, especially when you encounter a person whose characteristics are well different than yours but you both feel that there are some similarities and there is that other side of the person you want to know. In some cases it takes meeting a perfect stranger and a crazy adventure and you are friends for life. In other cases, establishing a friendship between a coconut (a stiff and secluded person) and a peach (an open-minded and adventurous person) takes a long time to develop, and one mistake can be disastrous, even if one attempts to clarify a misunderstanding. Every ex-patriate has gone down this road at least once and has learned a valuable lesson from this.

In either case, people come together for a reason, and there are many ways to tear down barriers and become friends for life, as seen in this week’s profiled genre, Rocker Rudi, from the Siebenstein series. Created for TV in 1988, the show features Frau Siebenstein, an owner of a small shop with full of magical surprises. She has a talking suitcase (Koffer), who has been on several adventures and is a storyteller, and a raven, Rudi, who is careless but assertive. The show can be seen on Sundays in the German children’s channel KIKA but it also has a website you can click on here.

In this episode, produced in 2010, a friend of Siebenstein’s (Doris) asks Rudi to clean the dishes, which he puts in the washing machine along with other items only to find that it is kaputt after a few short minutes. In the meantime, a biker enters the shop, looking lost as he was looking for a tatoo shop, only to see what happened to the washing machine and offers his help. Despite the hesitancy from Rudi and Koffer, Doris allows the biker to repair the washing machine and some amazing things happen in the end. More can be found here:

The episode went beyond the tatoos, the biking and the rock music as the main characters, who once had looked at one side of the biker, later looked at the other sides of him and eventually befriended him in the end. Sometimes people only look at one side of another person without looking at the other sides or at least find out why he has certain flaws that he either has problems dealing with or is unaware of what he has. If we only look at one side of a person, we will never know what the person is like on the inside. Sometimes it takes time to get to know the person in order to understand. Sometimes there is a reason for one person reaching out to another for help. In other cases, people, like the biker in the story, whom we never expect help from, offer their services as a way of relieving the person of despair. We may never know. But the main idea behind this episode is never judge the person by one side only or even by his “outer” appearance. Time is needed to know the rest of the person and eventually, befriend him. All it takes is patience, openness and the willingness to put aside their differences and forgive each other for the misunderstandings. While Americans are more quick to befriend a person, other cultures require time and effort to know the person before taking that step. Therefore it is important not to be judgemental, but allow the time needed to make friends and let it grow.

I would like to end this Genre of the Week with a story about a person who tried to open a raw coconut. He shook it, slammed it on the ground, sat on it while thinking and even tried to pry it open with a knife. Unfortunately it was to no avail, and the person had no choice but to let it be and ferment. A couple weeks leter, it ripened to a point where it was eventually eaten. Sometimes the Lord has His ways in deciding when to befriend someone and when to ferment someone you want to befriend. A lesson for the ages to be passed down to those who are trying to make friends with people of other cultures but to no avail. Time and effort are of the essence when it comes to making friends with others. This was a lesson taken from a deeply devoted Christian recently and one I hope others will follow.  🙂

FF new logo1

Genre of the Week: Rocker Rudi and Friendship (From the Siebenstein Series)

IMGP5251

Friendships: A delicate relationship between two people with common values and are willing to help each other whenever it is needed. There are many types of friendships that exist, starting with the closest friends who grow up together and are partners for life, then friends you know from your work or school with whom you go to concerts and other public events, and lastly, colleagues with whom you work together but not have much for personal relationships. While in the United States, making friends is as fast as getting married within a year after meeting your true love, and one can have over 900 friends but only a handful of best friends, Germans tend to take friendships as seriously as the way they treat their books- they are sacred! That means only a dozen friends with whom you spend time with regularly. And for colleagues, “….working relationship please! I don’t want to know about your daughter’s graduation from Gymnasium!”

Making friends in Germany is a delicate task, even when you have some people on your wish list, whom you want to befriend. Seriously, we all have a list of that kind, even if it is engrained in our heads! I personally have one too, albeit with only a couple coconuts I’m trying to pry open. 😉 But seriously, establishing a friendship can be a delicate task, especially when you encounter a person whose characteristics are well different than yours but you both feel that there are some similarities and there is that other side of the person you want to know. In some cases it takes meeting a perfect stranger and a crazy adventure and you are friends for life. In other cases, establishing a friendship between a coconut (a stiff and secluded person) and a peach (an open-minded and adventurous person) takes a long time to develop, and one mistake can be disastrous, even if one attempts to clarify a misunderstanding. Every ex-patriate has gone down this road at least once and has learned a valuable lesson from this.

In either case, people come together for a reason, and there are many ways to tear down barriers and become friends for life, as seen in this week’s profiled genre, Rocker Rudi, from the Siebenstein series. Created for TV in 1988, the show features Frau Siebenstein, an owner of a small shop with full of magical surprises. She has a talking suitcase (Koffer), who has been on several adventures and is a storyteller, and a raven, Rudi, who is careless but assertive. The show can be seen on Sundays in the German children’s channel KIKA but it also has a website you can click on here.

In this episode, produced in 2010, a friend of Siebenstein’s (Doris) asks Rudi to clean the dishes, which he puts in the washing machine along with other items only to find that it is kaputt after a few short minutes. In the meantime, a biker enters the shop, looking lost as he was looking for a tatoo shop, only to see what happened to the washing machine and offers his help. Despite the hesitancy from Rudi and Koffer, Doris allows the biker to repair the washing machine and some amazing things happen in the end. More can be found here:

The episode went beyond the tatoos, the biking and the rock music as the main characters, who once had looked at one side of the biker, later looked at the other sides of him and eventually befriended him in the end. Sometimes people only look at one side of another person without looking at the other sides or at least find out why he has certain flaws that he either has problems dealing with or is unaware of what he has. If we only look at one side of a person, we will never know what the person is like on the inside. Sometimes it takes time to get to know the person in order to understand. Sometimes there is a reason for one person reaching out to another for help. In other cases, people, like the biker in the story, whom we never expect help from, offer their services as a way of relieving the person of despair. We may never know. But the main idea behind this episode is never judge the person by one side only or even by his “outer” appearance. Time is needed to know the rest of the person and eventually, befriend him. All it takes is patience, openness and the willingness to put aside their differences and forgive each other for the misunderstandings. While Americans are more quick to befriend a person, other cultures require time and effort to know the person before taking that step. Therefore it is important not to be judgemental, but allow the time needed to make friends and let it grow.

I would like to end this Genre of the Week with a story about a person who tried to open a raw coconut. He shook it, slammed it on the ground, sat on it while thinking and even tried to pry it open with a knife. Unfortunately it was to no avail, and the person had no choice but to let it be and ferment. A couple weeks leter, it ripened to a point where it was eventually eaten. Sometimes the Lord has His ways in deciding when to befriend someone and when to ferment someone you want to befriend. A lesson for the ages to be passed down to those who are trying to make friends with people of other cultures but to no avail. Time and effort are of the essence when it comes to making friends with others. This was a lesson taken from a deeply devoted Christian recently and one I hope others will follow.  🙂

FF new logo1