I’m a big believer in second chances, and in third, fourth — well maybe I’ll stop there. I know from personal as well as from professional experience that there isn’t an ‘always’ or a ‘never’ when it comes to second chances.  The concept is complicated. It depends on the relationship of the people involved, and it also depends on the situation.  Asking for, or agreeing to a second chance involves guilt, forgiveness, apologies, and most of all, a true understanding of what that second chance entails. Whether it’s directed toward your spouse, your teenager, your sister, or your co-worker, there are no guaranties of success.  There’s also a scale involved, and that scale isn’t as objective as the one in your bathroom.  It’s personal, unique, and relates to cause and effect.

Here’s an example:  I have a friend whose son-in-law cheated on her daughter with a prostitute at a bachelor party in Cancun.  My friend was in a moral uproar, yet her daughter was inclined to give the errant husband a second chance.  On the other hand, my friend is now having a problem making eye contact with her son-in-law.  Remember to consider cause and effect.  How much does this scenario weigh on the second chance scale?  Is it a different number for my friend than for her daughter?  What if you’re the unfaithful spouse?  Are you asking for a second chance because you are truly remorseful, or because you got caught?  Are you willing to work on the relationship, or will you simply phone it in for the sake of your children?

In another example, I met with three 40-something year old sisters who were dealing with the death of their father.  Two of the sisters were local, and were the caregivers for their ailing dad; the third sister lived in another state.  When the time came to go through their father’s things, the local sisters formed a united front against their other sibling, denying her access and denying her the opportunity to acquire some sentimental remembrances of their father.  In the mediation process, it was revealed that the two sisters effectively banished the other one into exile because she stole money from their dad and used it to buy drugs when they were all in high school.    Is there another scale when the cause occurred 25 years ago?  What effect does a second chance have on this family?

In both of these situations, faith in the relationship plays an important role in considering a second chance.  Does my friend have faith that her errant son-in-law will make better choices in the future?  Do the fighting sisters have faith that they can reunite and move past a long-standing feud?  What is the likelihood of success in either of these two scenarios?

I’m convinced that both second chance givers and second chance receivers need a fresh start. And that involves forgiveness.

The subject of forgiveness weighs enough to warrant its own scale.  Come back next Wednesday morning for some things to think about before you forgive.