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.


Gramoni said...

What do you think of this additional step from Bold Love?: After forgiveness is given, a door is opened for a renewed relationship, but if the aggression that started the offense is not dealt with on an ongoing basis, the forgiveness is not complete, because true repentance is required for the forgiveness to be totally what forgiveness is, a renewing of relationship. The cheek is to be turned, but the offended one is not required to keep on taking it on the chin, forgiving and forgiving, with no justice being done to protect him. This, the book says, is not helping the offender,either, not actually loving him, because your forgiveness is allowing him to "do it again." I know a boy who had this continuing problem and was not given any instructions on how to live with the aggression, only forgive, and don't respond in kind. It did not help him grow spiritually, but left him feeling rather bitter.

Yet Jesus says keep on forgiving indefinitely. I guess, leave the possibility open for a trusting relationship to be confirmed. But not to say that you have to keep on being beat up by the bully. Hmmm...

Herb of Grace said...

Good point, Mom. I guess I would say that in the context of our family, it's J's and my role to insure that ongoing aggression is dealt with separately. We are the Providers of Justice, when appropriate. I think this post has limited usefulness in application to non-sibling or adult relationships. I mean, I wouldn't expect our model to work perfectly in, say, a business situation, or a situation where there was out-right abuse. In that case there needs to be retribution and justice, in addition to forgiveness. Retribution and justice is less important between bickering four-and-eight-year-olds :)

Gramoni said...

True, you can get too serious and intense over "little things." But Bold Love WAS talking about sibling relationships. And I've heard from some of my children that things I thought were little at the time were really quite big, and they felt abandoned to their fate of living with each other with no relief in sight. And ongoing, future relationships are built on this insecure foundation. I'm probably scaring you to death. You surely can't find every single inequity and make it right. And I am not aiming my comments at YOUR kids particularly, just siblings in general. And you are doing a wonderful job with my wonderful grandchildren!

Lauren Valentine said...

Thanks for this Elisa! We follow pretty much the same model. Usually we do a quick talk, spankings or timeouts, and then apology and forgiveness. I think at Noah and Chloe's age they need that immediate timeout or spanking (dependant on severity of the offense and fequency of it) before they're ready to apologize and forgive. What do you think?

Jennifer said...

I've struggled with a lack of repentance in Evie - lack of understanding that she has HURT someone/done something wrong. It finally seems to be getting better, but still I'm often surprised by her "coldness" when there is something to apologize for - she often can't even seem to acknowledge it as anything of importance to her relationships. At one point, when she was much younger, I compared it with sin and the separation from Christ - ie. there is a wall between us that needs to be taken care of because of what you did and you need to apologize/make it right. That kinda worked for a while with ME, but didn't seem to follow through with anyone else. I get concerned when I see her causing hurt to her friend (accidentally, of course!) and it doesn't even seem to dawn on her that she's done wrong until I get on her case - and then instead of apologizing she's so contrite that she can't even deal with the situation and hides her face in shame. She has a very low shame tolerance - and I really don't know why as I've tried never to make it about shame. I can only assume that it's because she has no siblings and is just that self focused and that self unaware??? I'm hoping that school will help with this, too. I just hope she doesn't destroy relationships before she makes them.