This is the fifth week of a Lenten series. Today, we focus on forgiveness in family life.
By: Christine Silva, Guest Contributor
The act of forgiveness is paramount to a fruitful family life. For it is a gift to be freely given and received. As a mother to four children and a wife to my amazing husband, Marques, I often find myself faced with many opportunities to practice the art of forgiving. In my almost 22 years of marriage and family life, I have realized that God desires for us to really perfect this gift and He, in His infinite Wisdom, helps to provide many situations where we can practice that act of not only offering forgiveness to others, but accepting and receiving it as well.
“Avoid offending anyone. For to ask forgiveness is not delightful.”
–Saint John Cantius
Boy, this guy [Saint John Cantius] was onto something. It is so easy – when faced with having done something to someone – to simply say, “I am sorry.” Almost too easy, actually. I honestly can’t remember how many times early on in my relationship with my husband that we would – after a disagreement – just throw out a, “Sorry,” and move on our merry way. Our disagreement never felt resolved or quite complete to me. I felt like there should have been more than just dropping a word to “get it over with and move on.” Simply saying the words, “I’m sorry,” felt somehow like a cop-out, like it should be a little more challenging to give and receive forgiveness.
When we began our marriage, my husband and I decided that we desired to teach our children how to truly forgive one another. From experience, we knew how easy it was to just toss out a simple, “I’m sorry,” in trying to resolve an issue, but we wanted our family to really practice the act of forgiving and receiving forgiveness from another person. We started with ourselves. When those disagreements happened, we made the conscious effort to actually ask the other for forgiveness. Because asking for forgiveness actually means the other person has the option of whether to forgive you. The one seeking forgiveness is putting themselves completely out there – humbly, sincerely, utterly vulnerable and at times fearful of what the other person might say. This act gives the other person a chance to actively participate in the act of forgiveness. As Saint John so beautifully reminds us, it should not be “delightful.” It is meant to be uncomfortable. Thankfully, Marques and I have always graciously given and received the forgiveness offered by one another. Our children – on the other hand – are another story.
From the time our children were young, Marques and I started teaching them how to forgive one another. Once, during a pretty intense 3-day game of Monopoly, our spunky daughter, Hannah, angered her older brother Nicholas. As the game progressed, she was being creamed by her older brother and decided to change the rules. In the process, he was getting more and more upset with her while she changed every rule in the book to somehow try to beat him. Needless to say, the game completely imploded upon itself with angry and frustrated children marching through my dining room swearing to never play with each other again.
Hannah, who never liked it when her big brother was upset with her, decided to go and ask for his forgiveness. Nicholas, in his frustration, chose not to forgive her at that moment. Hannah quickly learned that she was going to have to wait to receive his forgiveness until he was fully ready to give it. Certainly, this was not a fun moment for her or him, but a life lesson learned. Years later, I am happy to report that there are still Monopoly games happening in our house and going much more peacefully now!
Throughout nearly 22 years of marriage and family life, we have all learned that the gift that is forgiveness is not always easy, does not always turn out the way we expect it to, but always helps us to grow. Marques and I not only require this act of our children to each other, but we also expect it from ourselves to them. There have been plenty of times when we, the imperfect parents that we are, have sought out our children’s forgiveness as well. Those have been some of the most beautiful teaching moments yet; to show them that their parents are not immune from needing to seek forgiveness, especially from their children.
Forgiveness is a beautiful gift. May God grant us all the strength and humility to actively participate in this act of love.