My friend, Rachel, at A Mother Far from Home wrote a great article called “Why I Won’t Teach my Kids to Ask for Forgiveness.” It was a wonderful article because it made me think and challenged my own practices with my own family. I revisited her thoughts since she wrote it, and have finally decided I would write a rebuttal article called, “Why I Will Teach my Kids to Ask for Forgiveness.”
Please don’t just read the title of her article and come to a full array of conclusions about what she was saying. You need to read the article so you can hear both sides of the argument. Know that I have talked with her and received permission to write this article. I was actually able to spend a few days with her at a blog conference recently, so we are now more than virtual friends. Dialoguing on this topic, know that our hearts beat the same for the importance of forgiveness. Our hearts also beat the same in our desire to teach a depth of forgiveness with our kids because it’s one of the more important topics to teach. We want to get to the hearts of our children. Her article made me realize that I need to be more intentional about the conversation I have about forgiveness with my kids rather than just going through the motions.
Rachel’s heart on the topic is that kids need to learn forgiveness, but they should not be coerced into it. She says it needs to come from the heart, or we are teaching our kids to stuff their feelings. “(If someone) is made to “forgive” before she’s ready it will be false,” says Rachel.
This resonated with me and yet there was something that didn’t feel right about it. Like Rachel, I want to explore my child’s feelings and not “stuff them in an emotional basement,” but what I have experienced and learned about forgiveness makes me lead to a different conclusion of what this might look like with my kids and really with any relationship where forgiveness is needed.
I work with a marriage ministry at church, and forgiveness is a BIG topic. The week the groups are working on forgiveness is one of the more challenging and freeing weeks in the program. I have learned a few things in watching the process:
- Forgiveness is a choice.
- Forgiveness is an action step.
- The act of forgiveness often has to happen BEFORE the feelings are there.
- The feelings of forgiveness often follow the granting of forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness?
It is freeing someone from the the debt of whatever offense they committed against you. It is foregoing the right to get even.
What Forgiveness is Not
These lessons I learned and re-phrased from the marriage ministry, Re-Engage.
- It is not minimizing what has been done to you.
- It is not letting them off the hook. You need to be honest about the hurt and destruction, and it is sometimes loving to let them experience consequences.
- It is not putting yourself back into a position where you can be damaged again. You do not need to put yourself in harms way because you chose to forgive.
- It is not forgetting what happened.
What the Bible Says About Forgiveness
- Jesus demonstrated it best immediately after he was tortured and hanging on the cross. “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” – Luke 23:24
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32
- “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’ – Matthew 18: 21-22. Scholars agree that this isn’t an actual number. Numbers in the Bible are often time symbolic. Seven often represents completeness. The point here, is that we need to continually forgive.
- “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15
- “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” – Luke 6:37
We chose to forgive because it is what has been modeled for us. I know I sin over and over and over and yet “God demonstrates his own love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8. He not only shows us through His forgiveness, but we are told to forgive. God knows forgiveness is the best choice for us, so I want to obey that. I want my children to learn to trust and do the same.
I want my marriage and my family life to reflect the gospel. As I was in a discussion with a mother friend about this topic, she revealed what she says to her kids is, “We are a family that forgives.” Period. Forgiveness is an action. It is the healthiest action for us and for others.
I know many of you are coming from situations in your life that are EXTREMELY hard to forgive. I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to grant forgiveness in those circumstances. However, hopefully as your remember what forgiveness is, what it is NOT and the freedom that it brings, you will find ways to forgive. I also hope that you will learn to accept the forgiveness that is offered up through Jesus – not because of the good that we have done but just out of the love and grace God has for you.
I want my kids to learn to forgive also, knowing that sometimes our actions have to proceed our feelings.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Please enter into the conversation with us.