I've had a paradigm shift in my thinking about the topic of FORGIVENESS in family life. It all stems from this article by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
I always thought of forgiveness as what you do when someone has wronged you or hurt you or done something bad to you. Which it is, of course, but it's more. As a teenager, I would hold a grudge and give my parents the "silent treatment" if they wouldn't let me go somewhere or do something I wanted to do. My siblings would get over being mad quickly, but I mistakenly thought that I had to be mad for a long time to show how unhappy I was about their decision. I thought if I wasn't mad, then my parents would think I didn't really mind their decision after all. So I would carry anger around for a long time.
But forgiveness is not being mad when you have the right to be. It's not being hurt when someone has hurt you. It's not seeking revenge when you have been wronged.
How does this apply to family life? It can be applied and used multiple times a day!
Little sister takes big brother's toy. Big brother has a right to be mad--he has been wronged and usually retaliates by hitting or crying. But if big brother forgives his little sister, he shows love and understanding instead of revenge and justification. He becomes a peacemaker.
Teenage daughter wants to go to a movie with her friends. Her parents don't approve of the movie, even though her friends' parents--who are loving and cautious parents--do approve. Teenage daughter can argue and fight or sulk and criticize. But if teenage daughter forgives her parents for what she thinks as being "mean to her", she can look at their point of view, can realize they love her enough to protect her, and can let them know she disagrees with their decision, but respects them as her parents to willingly comply. Her parents so appreciate teenage daughter's attitude, that they offer to let her friends come over for pizza and movies another week end.
Take a good look at your family and see the many areas you can teach and practice forgiveness. For example, your husband forgetting to run an important errand, your son not taking out the garbage, or a car suddenly cutting in front of you. What about when you run out of peanut butter and your preschooler throws a fit, or your daughter's shirt is in the dirty clothes and she refuses to wear anything else. Do children need to learn to forgive their parents?
When we practice forgiveness, we feel happier and peaceful. We can forgive others, and still teach them. We can forgive others, and then feel peaceful enough TO teach them. Little sister is patiently taught to not take toys, discussion with teenage daughter is calm and respectful, husband and son are still loved even though natural consequences follow their forgetfulness. You ask your child to forgive you for not having time to buy more peanut butter or do the laundry.
Putting a name to our feelings and actions is important. Help your children learn when to forgive and label it as forgiveness. Teach them the blessings that come from forgiveness such as peace and harmony and understanding for others.
It's important to teach about forgiveness BEFORE it is needed. The preschooler crying for peanut butter might understand better if he's been taught about what to do in these situations previously.
And remember, it will take a long time to learn this principle--for ourselves, and our family. Especially that preschooler!
Thanks for reading,