Letting Go of the Baggage
Resentment and bitterness weigh us down
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To reflect on the value of forgiveness, using the example of Anthony Walker’s family.
Preparation and materials
You will need a rucksack and six heavy stones, or six heavy objects such as tins of beans. Each object should be labelled with one of the following terms: rejection, failure, criticism, bullying, racism and unkind words.
Have available the video ‘A mother's forgiveness for the killers of her son’ (available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/zkxr87h) and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 6.12 minutes long.
Optional: you may wish to play quiet, reflective music as the students enter and leave the assembly.
Ask for a volunteer to come to the front, and then place the rucksack on his or her back.
Explain that the rucksack represents our life and the baggage that each of us carries with us through life. When people hurt us in some way, we often choose to carry that hurt and pain with us.
Explain that you have some items to symbolize the kinds of things that may cause us pain and hurt, and that we may then carry in the ‘rucksack’ of our lives. You can either read one term at a time and place the heavy object in the rucksack, or invite volunteers to do so. Simply explain each term as the object is placed in the rucksack. For example, ‘Rejection – have you ever felt that nobody wants you around, or that your friends don’t want you? Do you ever feel alone and unwanted?’
After each item is added, ask the volunteer if the rucksack is getting heavier. Hopefully, he or she will say yes! Explain that, if we kept adding heavier objects to the rucksack day after day, week after week, the rucksack would get very heavy. Also, if it was carried around all day, every day, it would get very uncomfortable and make us very tired.
Ask your volunteer to take off the rucksack and sit down.
Explain that, when other people hurt us, we have a decision to make. We can choose to hold on to that pain, resentment and anger and carry it around all the time. Or we can choose to let it go. The word ‘forgiveness’ means ‘letting go of the anger and resentment we feel towards another person’. Sometimes, the person who has hurt us says sorry. Sometimes, they may not or cannot. However, in either case, making the choice not to hold onto our anger and resentment can help us. Choosing to let go of this anger is an important part of forgiving.
A good example of someone who has made the choice to forgive is Gee Walker, Anthony Walker’s mum. Anthony Walker was murdered in a racist attack in Liverpool in 2005, when he was just 18 years old. His mum and his sister both chose to forgive his killers and let go of the anger, hurt and resentment. In the video that we are going to watch, Anthony’s mum and sister both speak about Anthony and how and why they chose to forgive.
Show the video ‘A mother's forgiveness for the killers of her son’ (available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/zkxr87h). It is 6.12 minutes long.
Many of us may feel surprised at Gee and Dominique Walker's decision to forgive. Both of them speak about their desire to follow Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness. Jesus spoke about forgiveness many times. In the Bible, Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you’ (Matthew 5.44). As he was being crucified, Jesus prayed for the people hurting him by saying ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke 23.34).
Both Gee and Dominique Walker are clear that they made a decision. They chose not to live with anger and resentment, but instead to forgive.
Time for reflection
Think about the rucksack and the heavy baggage inside it.
Are you carrying around heavy baggage today?
We all have a choice as to whether we want to carry hurt and anger, or let it go.
Take each object out of the rucksack and read the attached term as you do so.
Could we today decide to ‘let go’ of some of the things that have caused us pain and hurt?
Could we become people who choose to forgive?
Point out that sometimes when people hurt us, we need to talk to someone about it. This might be a parent, a teacher or a friend. It is our choice whether to forgive, but sometimes, sharing a problem with someone else can make the difficulty seem lighter and more bearable. Talking to someone else can also help us find solutions to our problems.
There are times in our lives when others hurt us.
These hurts can weigh us down and make life difficult. We often feel anger and resentment.
Please help us to choose to let go of this hurt, anger and resentment.
Please give us the courage and wisdom to take the first steps towards forgiveness.
We pray today for people we know who are hurting.
Help us to be encouraging and kind to others today.