Joyice is fast becoming a great friend of mine. Today, she’s sharing how her family gets to the heart of forgiveness. ~ Danika
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Hiya! I’m Joyice and I blog over at RaisingBoysHomeschool.com about faith, family, and homeschool. Today, I’d like to share with you how teaching forgiveness began to change my sons’ hearts and improved their brotherhood.
Forgiveness. At some point, we’ll all need to accept it and offer it. Neither of them are particularly easy to do but if we’re to experience any peace and rest in this life, it’s completely crucial to render both. Truth is, we’re all sinners and we’ve been hurt and been guilty of hurting. Since we know this is true it should propel us to be more gracious with others but that’s not always the case, at least not automatically. I’m learning it has to be taught.
Typically, one son offends the other and then he attacks. Sometimes the attacks are verbal and at other times they are physical. Sometimes they are plotted and sometimes they are sporadic. Naturally, once we’re attacked in one way or another our instinct is to attack back. This weekly mayhem was exhausting and unfruitful. It had to stop.
I used to ask them to both say “I’m sorry”, shake on it, and cool off. While it may have provided a temporary relief, their hearts were still hard and I did not want anger to corrupt them.
I pondered and asked of my husband ways to teach them to recognize their own sin. As Christian parents, we turned to our Bibles seeking an answer. We gave up the superficial “I’m sorry” and began the “please forgive me” model. This changed EVERYthing about my boys’ relationship with each other (and others) and their character.
I remembered it is LOVE that covers a multitude of sin. It’s LOVE that never fails. It’s LOVE that is greater than faith and hope. And true love, real love, always forgives.
Most times there is one who did the provoking and one who did the offending. So now they each have something to ask forgiveness for. The offender goes first, usually. But they each confess what they did, tell me how or why it was wrong, and then ask for their pardon. It normally looks like this…
I hit you because I was angry with what you said. I know it was wrong because we’re not supposed to hit people. We’re to have helping hands, not hurting hands. I should not have hit you, will you please forgive me?
There’s something about asking for forgiveness that begins a release. Emotions begin to calm, anger begins to subside, and your own vengeance isn’t as important. Of course, this is not instant, but it’s a beginning. He’s trying hard to keep his anger and vengeance, but he just cannot. Isn’t forgiveness a beauty? This is the moment where the offended party has to choose love. I intervene to help steer him in the right way.
“True love forgives, son. Even if the person is not deserving of forgiveness, what would true love do? Remember your own wrongdoings and what Jesus did for you? Take a moment and decide if you will walk in love and forgive your brother.” (I Cor 13:5, Eph 1:7, Acts 3:19)
I’m going to forgive him, mom.
“Tell him, though. I’m not your brother.”
I forgive you for hitting me.
“Well, then. You provoked him. I’ve taught you what God’s Word says about provoking others? Do you remember? Are we supposed to do that? I think you need to ask your brother for his forgiveness too. He should feel safe around you. You shouldn’t provoke him on purpose. Calling someone ‘chicken legs’ or any other name other than their own is provoking.” (Gal 5:36, Prov 12:35)
I should not have called you that name.
“Say the name. You have to own all of it.” (This is where it gets real. We never want to fully come to grips with what we have actually done. This admittance often begins to lead toward change.)
I should not have called you ‘chicken legs.’ I know it’s wrong to provoke others and you’re my brother. Will you please forgive me?
That was really hard for him to admit. As a result, over time, he began to avoid behaviors he did not want to confess. Isn’t forgiveness a beauty? Not only is the same release beginning to take root, but his brother has a more gracious position because he’s already been forgiven. So, naturally he’s more open to forgiveness but that does not secure it. So, I need to guide again.
“Remember, your brother just forgave you? What does Jesus say about not forgiving others? Can you afford to risk that? You have to decide too. Will you walk in love and forgive?” (Matt 6:15)
I’ll forgive him, mama. But it’s hard, I don’t like being called names.
“I don’t either. But we cannot control other people, only ourselves. When you have trouble with name-calling, remember who God says you are. That’s greater than what any man has to say about you. If you’re offering your forgiveness though, you have to say it to your brother.”
I forgive you for calling me ‘chicken legs’, but I don’t like it and I wish you wouldn’t.
We normally close making sure all hearts and minds are clear. They’ve come a mighty long way. These incidents have become fewer and fewer.
We have all learned:
- Recognizing our own sin seems to makes us less likely to offend others with it.
- Admitting our own fault/blame seems to make us less likely to continue to repeat it.
- Knowing we’ll have to ask our own pardon seems to make us more conscious of how we treat each other.
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.