Sacrifice is putting aside oneself for the good of the whole and for the strength of relationships. As difficult as that action is, forgiving another person is even harder. If sacrifice is something we do for others, forgiveness is what we do for ourselves. Usually, offending actions or words take place prior to the need for forgiveness. There might be the presence of trauma or victimization. The forgiving person does not say, by way of forgiveness, that everything is okay, we can forget about the offense, let’s move forward. The forgiver does not relinquish the right to restitution in some fashion. What is critical to forgiveness is not what we do or say to another person for his or her sake. It’s what we do or say that makes us feel better. Especially letting go of anger, which, we all know, is toxic to our health and well-being.
Playing 162 games a year, often in very hot and humid weather, can put people on edge. Long road trips, sleeping in different hotels, eating in restaurants, and playing in different ballparks every four days can wear thin the patience of people who are often very easygoing. Even players at lower levels get frustrated with teammates who don’t hustle after fly balls, aren’t swinging the bat, or are making errant throws on the field. Or crabbing on the bus… Yelling at them, calling them names, or getting angry at them only pollutes the team atmosphere. Most players know when they have screwed up (or are being crabby). Having just a few chances each game to make an accurate throw or catch a fly ball means that blowing it on one of those
occasions takes on a greater significance, especially if that blown chance leads to a loss. That’s why baseball players need short memories – and to keep marinating one another in Little League affirmation.
Mistakes will always occur as long as humans are human. Everyone blows it at some point in life with something. Our shame-based culture trains us to hide our vulnerabilities, blame others, and avoid taking responsibility for our mistakes. Forgiveness is often seen as capitulation, giving in to the other person, denying our feelings, or letting someone get away with their poor behavior, a sign of weakness. But what if we could practice a generosity of forgiveness? By recognizing that mistakes happen, giving people the benefit of the doubt (very few people intend to screw things up), and affirming one another we could keep alive that Little League atmosphere of affirmation where people flourish. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others confirms our common humanity. We say yes to one another, even as we constantly disappoint one another.
A risk attends the person who forgives. In situations where trust is absent in a relationship, forgiving the other person only opens one up to disadvantage or even abuse. However, there is a certain gentleness that comes with forgiveness that allows people to be human, only human, and not pretends to be perfect or some kind of superhero. The long-haul season of baseball is a steady-state condition necessary for strong relationships. There’s an honesty to forgiving that admits people are good enough, not perfect. That’s the language of baseball as well as healthy relationships.