How does forgiveness work in your family?
We’re not talking about the response to the mumbled “sorry” begrudgingly given by your 3 year old after they’ve smashed a sibling over the head with their cereal bowl for the third time that week, or the one that trots so easily off the tongue when your 11 year old has not done the one thing you asked them to do that day. We’re talking about forgiveness freely given when your child shows true remorse for having caused you or another member of the family emotional or physical pain.
We are all sinful by nature, and living in close proximity to family members means it’s inevitable that we cause upset and offend each other from time to time. Add into this mix childish immaturity and hormone-fuelled adolescence and it definitely becomes a question of when, and not if, we will come across the need to express forgiveness to each other! We all recognise that finding the courage to say sorry to someone we have hurt is not always easy. How much worse is it when, having found that courage, we cannot be sure how the person has received it, or even if we have been forgiven at all?
Giving and receiving forgiveness allows both us and our children to move on. Holding onto the hurt after they have shown remorse can hold our children back from growing and changing. If we do not forgive and allow each other to move on, the relationship can so easily hit a downward spiral that can cause more damage than the original wrongdoing. Many a family feud could be averted if true forgiveness was more widely practised.
So I would like to share some suggestions to help foster an atmosphere of forgiveness in your home:
• Show your children how you express forgiveness to your spouse after falling out, especially if they witnessed the falling out.
• Encourage your children from a very young age to practice saying “I forgive you” when they are offered an apology from a sibling. (Although they may not mean it or understand it at the time, it will become something they later come to recognise as important)
• If you realise you are the one that needs to apologise to your child for something, do so readily and ask them for their forgiveness.
• When your child apologises to you offer your forgiveness without hesitation.
Yes, it is hard to forgive when we are still dealing with our own emotions over what has been said or done, and we may not feel like we ourselves are yet ready to move on, but it is vital that we learn to deal with this and are then able to teach our children the high value of giving and receiving forgiveness. The benefits will stay with them for the rest of their life.