I cannot claim to be an expert on many things, but I am very, very proficient at stuffing up, especially as a parent. (There are no juicy confessions here but do buy my posthumous autobiography).
None of us get through life without stuffing up, sometimes in just little ways and sometimes in big, steaming, hairy, really bad ways! That’s why forgiveness is a wonderful thing that allows life to get back on track. Here’s a few things about forgiveness:
- Asking for forgiveness will take courage but it might solve many problems
- We cannot demand forgiveness
- We should not be offended if people do not forgive us yet
- Sometimes people need to see the evidence of a changed heart and changed behaviour before they can forgive – so forgiveness might take time
- Forgive yourself! The worst abuse many of us ever get is from that person in the mirror. If you are not perfect and you have made mistakes it means you are human. You do not have to lie to yourself – you do not have to pretend that the bad things you did are not bad – but we can say, “I have changed. I can make better choices and do better things”. Sometimes it helps to hear your forgiveness from the lips of someone else – a priest, minister or other counsellor may be able to help.
I’ve often blown it with my kids. Usually it was getting too angry, too loud. Sometimes I’ve known I’ve blown it… sometimes I didn’t realise and needed my wife to gently say, “I think that was a bit too harsh. I think they might be a little too offended to get the point of what you were trying to say”. And so I apologised.
Apologising is a bit of a thump in the solar plexus of an adult-sized ego, but I have found that it is incredibly healing to relationships if I climb down and say something like, “Sorry about that telling-off you got this morning. What you did wasn’t right, but you didn’t really deserve that much growling. I was just being a grump.” And the response? “That’s all right, Dad, we’re used to it”. The incident seems to blow out the window as if it had never happened. But if I didn’t back down, I’d be scared of their acute sense of justice. If you wrong them, it can lead to a king-size chip on the shoulder, and they’ll remember some injustices for decades. Who wants those memories in your kids’ heads when they’re picking you rest home. I feel sorry for those parents who refuse to apologise to their kids because they fear they will lose their respect. Wrong! Kids will forgive us almost anything… except hypocrisy, pretending to be something that we are not. At such close range, they will eventually sniff out every bit of hypocrisy in us.. Sometimes it’s right to back down and apologise to our kids. Don’t let you anger and pride rob you of a close relationship.