Saturday, July 23, 2011

I Forgive You

The Four Important Steps:

1) Express remorse...

"I'm sorry"

These words are at the center of the whole deal. They mean something very important, and I talk to my kids about it frequently. When you say the words "I"m sorry", you mean that you are repenting, turning away from a particular behavior, acknowledging that you were wrong and that you wronged your brother.

2) ...for a specific offense

"I'm sorry that I..."

This is the part most often left out of an apology for the purpose of "saving face." In order to truly apologize, you've got to acknowledge that there was some specific thing that you did that was a trespass against your brother. Something you did wrong. So many apologies that I've heard, given and received over the years are half-a$$ed measures that leave the person apologized to sounding like the guilty party: "I'm sorry that you got your feelings hurt" Oh puhlease. That's not an apology. There's no acknowledgment of guilt.

3) Acknowledge your need for the other person's forgiveness

"I'm sorry that I hit you, will you please forgive me?" (we're going with the most commonly heard apology around here for this example)

Once you've turned away from the sin and acknowledged your guilt, you still have to admit that you need forgiveness from the other person. In a way this validates the anger and outrage of the sinned-against. I did something wrong, something specific and you are justified in your outrage, but I'm asking you to put it aside and take me back as your friend. It puts the asker in a vulnerable position and forces a reversal in position between the two combatants. No apology is complete without this humility.

4) Forgive freely

"Yes, I forgive you."

In our house the rule is, once someone has complied with all the requirements of a proper apology, the offended person is bound to forgive-- no questioning of motives or sincerity allowed. Obviously this won't occur in every situation where my children offer an apology throughout their lives. I know there will be times when their vulnerability and humility is thrown back in their faces, when their apology is greeted with skepticism about their motives and sincerity. But for now, on the training grounds of our family life, this is extremely important. Only the Lord knows the heart of a man and in place of perfect knowledge, they are to give one another the benefit of Mercy. Even when there has been a serious infraction of household rules and some sort of correction or consequence is called for, if forgiveness is sought, then it is freely given. After forgiveness, then we deal with spankings or other consequences.

This last part is so vital for our family. Judah, in particular, with his sensitive heart has on more than one occasion wailed post-spanking, "Bu-bu-but you forgot to say I forgive you!!" Discipline administered in the atmosphere of repentance and forgiveness is SO much more effective.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm so sorry...

Shortly before we were married, I was given an invaluable piece of advice by my mother (I think... but I'm not sure... many people were giving us lots of advice at the time) This one piece of advice stuck most firmly in my mind and has affected our marriage perhaps more than any other.

"Make it your goal to always be the first to apologize."

Wise words.

As I mentioned recently in a Facebook status, my kids have been fighting A LOT lately. It must be their ages and stage of development-- it never used to be this bad. Perhaps it has to do with Judah moving out of the Baby place in the family, into Middle Child. But whatever it is, they are at each other day and night.

For example I just had to stop writing and pull them out of the pool, where they were engaged in a full-on fist fight at the steps. They are now sitting in deck chairs, glaring at each other-- a mandatory cooling off period before I go out and make them apologize to each other.

Last night in the shower (because, as I have mentioned, I do a lot of my deep thinking in the shower) I decided to take a positive approach to this situation and use this current tumultuous time in their relationship to more aggressively instruct them in the Art of Apology.

When we were kids, I remember apologies being an every-day part of life. It went like this:

*sounds of fighting*

*parental intervention*

"Tell your sister you're sorry!"


"No, say it like you mean it"

*mutter* "Sorry."

*muttered response* "That's ok."

End of story.

I don't think I ever noticed the inadequacy of this model until I once "accepted" an apology from a young child I was babysitting in this manner. His mother responded, "No, it's not ok, but you could forgive him." Embarrassing, for sure, but I've been grateful for her response since then because it has stuck with me over the years (as embarrassing encounters do tend to).

We've evolved a model for apologies over the years that I'd like to share with you in my next post. But I feel like I need to preface that discussion by saying that I in no way intend this discussion to be a criticism of the way our parents taught us. I mean, they introduced the whole concept of repentance and forgiveness to both J and myself. We're just improving the technique-- building on their foundation.

And apparently we're doing something right, anyway, because when I went out to talk to the kids, they had already apologized and reconciled and were waiting with penitent, downcast eyes :) I just sent them back into the pool. It doesn't really matter what who did to whom. The whole problem was that each had, in some way offended the other. But once forgiveness was asked and granted, it just didn't seem appropriate to discuss it further.

As always, y'all feel free to chime in with questions, ideas and suggestions :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hi again.

I've been wracking my brain lately, trying to figure out why I'm so depressingly un-motivated to blog these days. It's weird. Every time I sit down to try and write, the tongue in my head that goes wag-wag-wag all day long, suddenly dries up and cleaves to the roof of my... mind. All that constant undercurrent of thoughts just slows to a trickle. An uninteresting and uninspiring trickle.

I think it just might be that the clamor and chaos of my life has abruptly reached critical mass in the last month and I now no longer have any room at all in my head for my own thoughts. In any moment that there is no childish clatter all-but-drowning out Me, I necessarily use up the last of my available energy to just Be. There's nothing left for creating anything to share.

I am only vaguely unhappy about this. Or perhaps guilty might be a better word. Vaguely guilty for allowing this part of Me to fade out... die off...without putting up a fight even. But mostly my life is too full of other things to spend much time bothering about it.

And yet, all my life is littered through with things that I've quit, as I move on to new and other interests. A veritable Hansel and Gretel trail of unfinished projects, littering the forest, showing the path back to... what? The Me that finds security in always having a little more to do than I can possibly accomplish, thus always avoiding that lonely insecure feeling of "what now?"

So I mostly (but not all) want to push through, shove off this listlessness, this creative langor that has settled around my mind, and return again to the siren call of the Words and the Stories. To persevere, for once, in this one project, at least. To continue to create a record of myself and my family. To make some kind of mark, however faint.

We'll see how long that lasts...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kung-Fu Judah

We watched Kung Fu Panda last night and this morning Judah is, predictably, being Po. He also has a serious case of hiccups. This is an interesting juxtaposition, leading to the following monologue, as overhead a few moments ago:

Hiiiiya! Hah Heeeee--*hic-hic-HUP* WAAAH!!Woooo *hiccUP* HA!!"

And I just can't stop laughing. Behind closed doors, of course.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jude I Love

My baby-love is now a Young Man of Many Faces