Instilling the Act of Forgiveness in Our Children
by Chere Williams
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Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men of their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.
Christians realize forgiveness is integral to our spiritual growth and maturation. Christ speaks very clearly in the scriptures about forgiveness and how we must forgive others just as he has forgiven us. It's often challenging to forgive and forget when we've been hurt or disappointed by people in our lives. It is easy to allow our ego and pride to get in the way. But, once we do forgive it is a gift to ourselves and others. Carrying anger and bitterness is physically, spiritually, and mentally toxic to our whole being. Teaching children to forgive frees them of the pain that comes along with holding onto quarrels and grudges. If we want to instill Christ-like character in our children forgiveness is essential. Children will get into arguments with their friends and siblings. I have witnessed parents treating these disagreements very lightly, without really addressing the issue. Although some squabbles are just that harmless squabbles others can take root and cause serious issues in the future.
When an argument ensues between siblings or your children and their friends and you're aware of it, I suggest addressing the issue. Sit both children down and ask them separately to each explain why they're arguing, it causes them to take a moment and actually listen to one another without interruption. Tell them to express how the argument made them feel. When they realize how their words can hurt, I believe they eventually start thinking about what they say before they say it because of the consequences. After the situation is diffused, ask them to apologize to one another. In my home, if there is an argument, we look into one another eyes and apologize. Normally, you can tell if an apology is sincere if it isnít donít let them off the hook.
When the apologies are made, the next step is to pray. Prayer should become a constant in every aspect of their life. Teaching your kids to pray in all circumstances encourages them to always turn toward God. Teach them to pray for peace, for Christ like character, and to instill forgiveness in their hearts. Talk to your kids about praying before speaking when they think their words may lead to an argument.
If they are having issues with kids in school, encourage them to pray for them and to ask God to help them forgive the other person. I have surprisingly heard parents say, ďWell if Johnny calls you a name than you just call him one right back!Ē Wow, what terrible advice. An eye for an eye is no way to resolve an issue and only escalates the argument and increase aggression. Teaching our kids to be a Christian means to behave godly even when it is difficult to do so. Explain to them that God loves to see his children follow the golden rule and will bless them for their behavior.
We are their role models and it is our responsibility to practice forgiveness in our own lives. If your children witness you swallowing your pride and issuing an apology and truly forgiving someone they are more likely to follow your path. Be cognizant of situations that are teachable moments, this is the best way a parent can show how forgiveness is a gift.
Talk openly in your home when conflict arises, read scriptures that discuss the importance of forgiveness, and encourage your kids to pray for God to touch their heart when they canít seem to forgive a friend or sibling. Teaching children early about forgiveness is a gift that will benefit them throughout their lives as adults and children of Christ.
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