I was not very good at the whole growing up thing. The teenage years in particular were painful to me. I had no self-confidence (I only developed a personality after I turned thirty-five) and I agonized all the time. What if people don't like me? What if everyone thinks I'm weird and no one tells me? What if I do something stupid? Actually, that last one was a valid concern--I did something stupid frequently.
I've been thinking about this recently as I watch my children grow up. At times it's very hard to watch them go through things that, while they'll seem small later, are looming very large in their life at the time.
Not too long ago Nicky, my nine-year-old, came to me after church one Sunday night.
"Mom, can we talk privately?" His face was mournfully long.
"Sure, what's up?"
"Have you ever lost a friend?" There was so much pain in his expression I wanted to cry.
The story was long and convuluted, but it boiled down to simple things. Nicky and Josh were playing together after church. There was a little girl visiting the services that night and she was playing too. Whatever they were playing, Nicky was in charge and Josh and the little girl were vying for the position of second in command. The little girl insisted ladies first. Josh insisted friendship should triumph. Harsh words were exchanged by all and Nicky ended up punching Josh for the honor of the girl.
I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. I gave Nicky a hug and explained that, whatever else was said, Nicky was wrong to hit Josh and he would need to apologize.
"I tried to," Nicky protested. "I said, 'look, we were both wrong.'"
After explaining that he could only apologize for his own actions and not Josh's, I told him if Josh was still mad when he saw him on Wednesday night he could apologize again--the right way.
Years of experience taught me that it was likely both boys would even forget they had a fight before they saw each other Wednesday. Childhood friendships ebb and flow like the tide. But that didn't help his hurting little heart right then.
Sure enough, after Wednesday night prayer meeting I asked Nicky how things went with Josh. I had to jog Nicky's memory a little before he even remembered their disagreement.
"Oh, that. He's not mad anymore."
Why is it that, when we're children, we can forgive and forget so easily, but once we've reached the "maturity" of adulthood, we hold onto things. We nutured our anger and bitterness. We actually mean it when we say, "I'll never speak to her again!" This is growing up? Come to think of it, maybe we'd feel better and get over things more quickly if we just punched each other and then mutually apologized.