It’s more than a song; it’s a mysterious way of living. Letting go our suffering and forgiveness are a cornerstone of Christian living, but it’s a concept that brings shivers to the strongest of Christians. It has been said that forgiveness is not for the weak.
I have a very sweet friend who is so kind and thoughtful that she in saintlike. She is the first to check on those who are hurting, to offer a monetary donation for a good cause or to shed a tear in honor of the downtrodden. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she was harboring unforgiveness for over a year. Someone did the unforgivable: they hurt her children. For a mother and a defender of children in our community, this was beyond her comprehension, and out of her reach to forgive. But the anger and unforgiveness was causing her physical and emotional pain.
Forgiving past wounds is one of the hardest things that we can ever do. Forgiving someone that is still hurting us or someone we love feels next to impossible. And it’s completely counterintuitive. If we forgive them, won’t they just hurt us again? What kind of message am I sending them if I don’t lord this mistake over them? Will they think I am a pushover? Will I lose my self-respect?
Forgiveness can feel awfully close to failure and eerily similar to raw vulnerability. Imagine being naked, with tears flowing down your face, walking through the town square. This is what forgiveness can feel like.
But is it worth it? You bet your britches! Forgiveness is the removal of heavy and loathsome chains, but not for the person you are forgiving, rather for you.
But there are other people who benefit from your ability to forgive, and your children are the most likely candidates to receive the benefits of an inheritance of forgiveness. The problem is that we rarely see past our hurt or our rage to notice how our unforgiveness towards others is negatively impacting our children.
Kids who grow up with parents who carry grudges learn how to carry them too. Unforgiving children can become angry and bitter adults who struggle to ever find peace and joy. Did you know that unforgiveness can be a generational curse? It can, and it is more prevalent that you might realize. Any family would be hard-pressed to not be able to identify at least one family grudge that has been lingering for years.
Yet do we really want our legacy to be the ability to stay angry and indignant or do we want to choose a different legacy that leaves room for love, peace and happiness? If you think that you can drudge through life with unforgiveness in your heart, and encourage love and light in your children, you will eventually find that you took a wrong turn. So what can you do to help your children learn how to forgive?
12 Steps to teaching children forgiveness:
Ultimately forgiveness is more for ourselves than whomever we forgive. In fact, we don’t always have to tell them that we have forgiven them to make it count. Forgiveness is an interaction between our God and us. Of course it may bring you closure to say, “I forgive you,” and by all means please do this if you are able. But if it is not safe for you to interact with this person, if they refuse to see you, or if they have passed away, you can still forgive them, and you can if you make it a priority.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)
One more thing: seeking any form of revenge in order to forgive is not the example we want to set for our children. Forgiveness does not have strings or conditions attached. It is a gift, it is godly and it is good. And if you absolutely must “do something” to make yourself feel better, then remember that the best “revenge” is living well. That doesn’t mean letting your anger become your motivation toward success.
True forgiveness grounded in faith, means seeking goodness and living out of love regardless of who hurt you. It means valuing yourself and your life enough to allow yourself a softened heart, ready to receive happiness and radiate love. In the end, it means taking off your victim cloak and replacing it with a crown of victory earned through doing only what the noblest can practice: forgiveness.
Kris Wolfe is a Christian, wife and mother. She is a freelance writer who focuses on spiritual and practical encouragement, writes lessons for small group purposes for churches, and is also a small group coach. Kris has a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Luther Rice University and Seminary and is a listed TN Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.
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