Counter-Cultural Parenting: Offering Forgiveness

sorryThis article features one of our clients, New Creations Boarding School, a Christian residential program for teens located in Richmond, Indiana.

What parent doesn’t want to be a loving parent? Can you imagine a new “mommy” or “daddy” holding a tiny infant and saying, ”I think you’re cute, but I really don’t want to love you”? That’s ridiculous! Yet love is inextricably linked to admitting our faults and seeking forgiveness as well as offering forgiveness to others.

Both sides of forgiveness take humility, and too often, even parents who want to love their kids can let selfish pride get in the way. First, we’ll look at offering forgiveness.

huggingHow Important Is It?

Apparently, forgiveness is not one of those optional aspects of the Christian life — you know, like being a career missionary to Africa or leading in public prayer during a mid-week church service. In fact, the concept is central in Jesus’ model prayer (often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”) when God’s Son invites us to ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).

Is that really how we want God to treat us — the way we treat our kids? Just in case we missed that part, Matthew 6:14 and 15 directly tell us that God will forgive us as we forgive others, but He will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others. Clearly, repentance and forgiveness are both extremely important to God.

What Else Is There?

tear wipingChances are, if you’re not asking your kids’ forgiveness on a regular basis — and offering them yours — you’re acting unloving toward them. In Paul’s famous “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13), he lists things love does and does not do; included in the catalog is the idea of keeping a record of wrongs.

I once knew a mom that, in order to keep things even among her three children, kept records of every penny she ever spent on them. I’m not sure if she had any other motives in keeping these lists for decades, but when I heard about this unusual practice, I couldn’t help but picture her confronting each of them with a total, at some point, and asking for remuneration.

While most of us wouldn’t think of bringing up that $2 toothbrush or $100 bicycle, we sometimes keep that horrible offense in our back pocket, ready to whip it out whenever the child we say we love makes an unreasonable request or accuses us of being an imperfect parent (which you and I both are, by the way). So, basically, if we’re not giving forgiveness, we’re not loving — not really, anyway.

What If It’s Fake?

No one likes fake apologies, and sometimes flippant words need to be addressed. However, we’re to give our kids the benefit of the doubt and forgive us when they request it. How often? As often as they ask.

Could they be sincere in apologizing for the same offense a dozen times in a single day? God doesn’t exactly deal with that, but He does throw out bigger numbers, like forgiving the same person 490 times (Matthew 18:22), so I’m pretty sure we should keep forgiving them, even when they keep disobeying the same way, a dozen times a day.

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