In the past weeks, I’ve revisited my friend, Forgiveness.
I’ve seen what refusing her can do to a person, how lack of forgiveness can eat away at the soul, hold you hostage to the past, weigh down your heart with a heaviness that is oppressive.
It occurred to me that Forgiveness is one of those friends we, as parents, often forget to introduce to our children. Manners? Check. How to be a friend? Check. How to get organized? Check. But do we consciously set about teaching our kids how to forgive, whom to forgive, and why to forgive? Do we model forgiveness to our children and would we want them to pattern their ideas about forgiveness after our own?
Because they will. Tomorrow, or a year from now, or 30 years down the road, they will forgive – or not – because you set the precedent on forgiveness. No pressure, right?
Actually, I don’t mind applying a little pressure on this topic, because I’m applying the same amount of pressure on myself. We – all of us – need to think about how we have responded when others have wronged us. We’ve all been hurt by our kids’ words and actions and we’ve all made plenty of our own mistakes in raising them. If words, actions, or mistakes are keeping you or your kids from moving on, apologies and forgiveness need to be doled out in equal measure. As adults, it’s our responsibility to invite Forgiveness into our homes, to sit down with our kids and admit that we were wrong. And when the tables are turned and they apologize to us, we need to listen and learn, we need to accept their apologies with graciousness, and we need to wipe the slate clean and move forward. Harboring resentment, resurrecting past mistakes, and telling kids you can’t trust them after they have apologized and you have granted forgiveness will teach them something, but I’m pretty sure it won’t teach them forgiveness. Bitterness, revenge, and an inability to move forward will be your legacy to your children if you don’t truly forgive and teach them to do the same.
You have plenty of opportunities to model forgiveness in your dealings with your spouse, family members, or friends. Your kids need to see you working through problems, accepting one another’s faults, hugging, and letting go of pain and resentment. They need to see you comforting each other through the difficult apology, communicating about what it will take to move forward, and laughing with each other once the incident is resolved. When you show them this, you are raising them to become people who treat others with patience and respect. You are helping them to see that mature, healthy adults admit their own failures, and you are helping them to understand that the people they love will sometimes fail them.
This Easter weekend, seek your friend, Forgiveness, and while you’re at it, extend some of her love to yourself. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Humbly admit that you will continue to make mistakes, but vow that when you do, you will learn, and you will move on. Let your kids see, accept, love, and ultimately forgive the imperfect parent you are.