Good Friday: A Lesson On Forgiveness
Good Friday is a day to commemorate the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, and it provides all of us with an example of the true power of forgiveness. Although the concept of forgiveness is often preached throughout families, schools, and churches everywhere, it can be a very difficult concept to apply to our own lives. After all, forgiveness is a choice, and not just a feeling, and it must be learned.
Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. Feelings are fleeting, every-changing, and different for every person. Forgiveness is choice, and can sometimes be a long process of healing. At its core, forgiveness is actually less about the other person or people and how they wronged you, and more about how you choose to respond to a less-than-ideal situation. Holding onto unresolved anger, holding grudges, and keeping a record of how people have wronged you only hurts you in the end, and not the people who are responsible for wrongdoing. Forgiveness is a process of healing, in which you can make the choice to let things go.
The problem with forgiveness is that it often involves the people we love the most, who have done us the most harm. As humans, we are prone to being hurt by the people closest to us. Our friends, our family, our coworkers, our neighbors - these are the people who hurt you the most when they make choices that don't meet your expectations. And this factor can often make them the hardest to forgive.
Christians celebrate Good Friday because of the symbolism behind the physical death of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death showed the ultimate betrayal - he was crucified by the people that were supposed to hail him as king. His death was the ultimate act of forgiveness, and his final words echo that sentiment. He didn’t resent or hate those who abused him and nailed him to a wooden cross. He forgave them, so that the world could experience true forgiveness.
So, what does forgiveness look like in our own lives? Forgiveness is an essential part of parenthood, although not an easy task. Perhaps you need to forgive a family member that has wronged you in some way. Maybe they didn’t come as often to see your kids as you’d expected, maybe their parenting views make them highly critical of yours, or maybe they judge you for choosing to expand your family beyond what they feel is appropriate. Maybe your spouse has said hurtful things to you about your parenting abilities, about your changing appearance, or about the housework that slipped through the cracks. Maybe your children have hurt you in some way, with unkind words or incorrect behavior. Being hurt by a family member’s words or actions often cuts the deepest - and yet, also warrants our forgiveness.
As a parent, you also need to learn how to forgive yourself. Nobody is superhuman - and nobody can accomplish everything that needs to get done each day. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. If you feel that you don’t live up to your spouse’s standards, society’s standards, or even your own standards, give yourself some grace and acknowledge that all of us are just doing the best we can. Parenting is hard, and there is no magical age where it suddenly gets easier. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, and make each day better than the last.
Forgiveness is something even young children need to be taught. They learn by behavior that is being modeled to them, so the better you are at practicing forgiveness, the more likely your children are to follow in your footsteps. This means acknowledging when you’ve done something wrong, and asking their forgiveness. Maybe you yelled at them when it wasn’t called for, maybe you were on your phone too much instead of playing with them, or maybe you said something unkind because you were anxious and tired. Learn the art of a good apology, and ask your child to forgive you.
Here are some important things to remember when it comes to practicing forgiveness in your family:
1. To forgive does not mean to forget.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing bad behavior. Forgiveness means acknowledging that someone else wronged you in some way, and then letting it go. An unforgiving heart hurts you more than it does anyone else.
2. You are a model for your children.
Children look to their parents as examples of proper behavior. If you carry around resentment toward those that have wronged you, what does that teach your children? If you see a situation where you need to forgive someone, consider talking about it with your children in an age-appropriate manner. They will learn from the behavior you model.
3. Be aware of feelings.
When working with your kids, especially young toddlers and preschoolers, don’t settle for forced apologies. Teach your children to identify their feelings first. For example, if their sibling took away a toy they were playing with, help your child identify how that made them feel, and have them vocalize that feeling when they talk to the sibling. Your child can say, “Emma, it made me angry when you took away the doll I was playing with. I got mad and started yelling. Please give me the toy back. I forgive you.”
4. Practice visualizing the concept of letting go.
It can be hard for young children to understand concepts that aren’t concrete. You can practice visualizing the act of forgiveness in a way that they’ll understand. Some people visualize clenching your fist, and then slowly releasing it. Others visualize blowing up a balloon, and then letting it go. Others visualize picking a rock and throwing it into the ocean. However your children can understand “letting go,” teach them to visualize the art of forgiving people.
5. Try to see things from another person’s perspective.
Teach your children to view things from another person’s perspective. This can be difficult, because young children often have a hard time visualizing other people’s feelings. The more you teach them to recognize and label their own feelings, the better they’ll be able to recognize those emotions in others. This can make forgiving someone a lot easier!
Good Friday reminds us all of the importance of forgiveness. Let’s take this time to practice forgiveness in our families, with our children, and with ourselves. You can make this world a more peaceful, loving place by practicing forgiveness.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.