For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Do you find yourself over identifying with your child’s hurt feelings? It’s easy to do! Regardless of how they feel- and how you feel about how they feel – they must learn to let go of offense. Don’t mistake unforgiveness – or forgiveness – as an emotion however. Both are chosen actions that move one’s mind and soul in decidedly direct directions, causing contrasting emotions. Holding on to offenses ladens a heart with such emotions as anger, rage, bitterness, resentment, and irritation. Letting go of offenses on the other hand, results in a light heart. It’s the “ultimate weight loss” (according to Beth Moore in Praying God’s Word) allowing room for emotions such as empathy, patience, joy and PEACE!
Plant “forgiveness seeds” early for your kids and water them regularly both by extending forgiveness to them and guiding them to forgive others. Otherwise the “weeds of offense” will take root and sprout self-focused responses that become harder and harder to break. Your children will not naturally choose to forgive unconditionally. Rather their human nature, as well as the narcissistic culture they are surrounded by, will nurture the growth of selfish attitudes and habits. Therefore, among the highest of priorities, parents must purpose to model and teach forgiveness to their children, at an early age.
We are literally obligated as God’s children to extend to others His unlimited capacity to forgive. His standard towards us mandates nothing less! To quote Lehman Strauss, Bible teacher and writer, “we cannot be right with God when we are wrong with others.”
- First- forgive them. Don’t withhold affection and warmth when they disappoint you. Disapproving of their actions can be done without disapproving of them.
- When your kids mess up, see these times as opportunities not only to hold them to high behavioral standards but in the process, hold them to the highest virtues of forgiveness as well.
- Don’t respond out of anger, which does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:20) A heart that forgives won’t remain angry. A forgiving parent will be more likely to learn of a child’s fears and concerns. Harsh condemnation on the other hand will discourage honest sharing of mistakes and problems, motivating a child to lie in order to avoid your anger.
- Remind yourself to first forgive them of their action and then calmly handle the situation, disciplining your children out of loving compassion and not out of frustration.
- Extend continual forgiveness to your spouse which can become the hardest forgiveness to grant. But we cannot teach what we do not possess. We can pretend but kids quickly pick up on the hypocrisy. Actions speak louder than words!
- Discuss the principles of forgiveness regularly. When a child sulks over some wrong doing, real or imagined, acknowledge the feeling but point out that forgiveness is still the choice they can and must make. Otherwise in their attempt to punish the wrong doer, they are really punishing themselves.
- Teach them that to repent means to reverse directions. It includes an inward change of attitude and an outward change of action.
- Don’t rush your children to say “I am sorry” or “I forgive you” before they truly mean it from the heart. At a young age, they learn how to behave “christian-ly” and will settle for what looks good because it temporarily serves them well. Genuine growth will not occur unless these words flow from a sincere and repentant heart.
- Be careful what you speak about in the presence of your kids. At times, in order to gain wise counsel from a trusted friend or family member, we may need to talk through a wrong suffered. Kids listen (often when you think they are not) and learn from how you speak to others however. Jesus said, “and I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” (Matthew 12:36) Are we not doubly accountable when our idle words fall on young ears who are learning from us!