Did you have a family mantra or rule growing up? I have heard of families that have little sayings or rules they go by to govern their behavior. The Duggars have been seen on TV quoting their "Never raise a hand to hit; never raise a foot to kick" guideline. Other families have had things like "Never tattle unless someone is hurt" (something I DO NOT understand or agree with--that's a tangent for later), or "Always tell the truth", or "Use kind words". I never had such a thing growing up and have often wondered if I would use sayings or rules like that for our family some day.
I've worked with children a lot over the years, and can say with certainty that having little quotes and rules can do a lot in helping kids learn to make better choices. Especially if it's things that are short and easy for them to remember. I worked in a school once where they had something called "first request"--meaning you need to do what you are asked after the first request and that you should not be asked again. I loved it! I could say just those two words-"first request"--and those words would serve as a reminder to prompt kids to go ahead and do what I had already asked them. Since every kid in the school knew what these words meant, it was a label for desired behavior that could be applied to every kid in every situation in which obedience wasn't instant.
This week my kids at work have been horrible. We have our fair share of squabbles and drama, but it definitely gets worse the closer we get to the end of the school year. I intervened countless times in fights and arguments yesterday and it got me thinking about how I want my kids to handle arguments, offenses, and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is something I want to teach my children because of its importance not only in human relationships but in their spiritual walk as well. (Side note: saying "I'm sorry" does nothing in teaching forgiveness to children in my opinion; what it does teach is lying and manipulation through emotion, and it's not a phrase I am overly fond of because of its misuse). I started thinking about all of this yesterday and came up (rather instantaneously) with four steps for overcoming offenses/forgiveness that I want to teach my kids.
1. Recognize the wrong done.
I think this is the logical first step. Why have my kid apologize for something if they aren't even willing to confront that they did something wrong to someone? Usually in an argument or fight both parties have attributed to the conflict in some way.
2. Ask forgiveness from God.
John reminds us that unconfessed sin stands in the way between us and God. God is quick to forgive, though--I want my kids to know this! I want them to be aware that Satan wants us to hide our sin in secrecy to keep us from God--and that we should not let sin keep us from our Father.
3. Ask forgiveness from the one wronged.
This is where my "saying I'm sorry doesn't cut it" philosophy comes in to play. I want my kids to name the wrongdoing and seek forgiveness. I think that as a general rule we don't own up to our sin enough; especially our sin that wrongs or hurts other people. Forgiving and being forgiven are essential to our health and well being.
4. Live free
I want my kids to know that once a wrong is confessed and forgiven, that they need to walk in the freedom Christ provides. Guilt is not from God. It is a snare set out by their enemy to trip them up. On the flip side of this, I don't want my kids to be lording past sins over others. I want to teach them that they need to do their part in encouraging fresh starts and clean slates (while at the same time not enabling those around them in sinful behavior).
Maybe some day I'll have these rules tacked up on a wall somewhere in our house as a reminder to them (and to me) on how God wants us to resolve conflict. Love doesn't abide in homes on its own. Even in Christian ones. Forgiveness has a lot to do with letting love live.