Lessons Learned: Forgiveness Plenty has been written about forgiveness, but honestly — it often feels a bit cerebral, technical even. If you want to learn what forgiveness is then you have to go to an expert. I’m lucky enough to know several. Little Zoe, aged 3, has been my great teacher in this respect, and her sister, aged 8 months has been fairly impressive too. In the course of being with these two I’ve done just about everything wrong. I’ve put on diapers back to front; I’ve offered food they really don’t like; I’ve failed to know the right way to stop them crying. These can be real crises for small children, don’t forget that. In every case my blunders caused tears and upset, but within minutes they’ve returned to being their usual serene selves. They just let it go. What has this taught me? That forgiveness is instinctual, immediate, and free. It doesn’t have to be asked or begged for. It’s our natural condition. It’s also told me that not forgiving – holding a grudge, clinging to a resentment – is almost certainly a learned response. We have to teach ourselves to do it. And then we only do it because we imagine it will bring us a reward of some sort eventually. This is not true, of course, unless one considers pouting and blackmail to contain any rewards. So we can only conclude that this is what people believe when they fail to forgive.