Several months ago, I wrote about teaching your children the importance of a sincere apology. But what if your little one is the one receiving the apology? How can we be teaching children forgiveness?
My children have been on both the receiving and giving side of apologies, and while giving someone they’ve hurt a sincere apology requires them to swallow their pride and can be difficult, I’ve found that they struggle just as much with forgiveness.
Forgiveness requires children to set their pride aside and lower their defenses. It could be something as simple as name-calling, but to a child this offense causes deep hurts that are not easily forgiven.
As parents, we have to help in teaching children forgiveness. We can go straight to the Word for guidance and direction. Who better for them to learn a lesson in forgiveness from than God himself?
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9
There are many verses in the Bible that speak of forgiveness and its importance in our lives.
Teaching Children Forgiveness: Jesus’s Example
We are encouraged by scripture to forgive others following the Lord’s example, as He forgave us. The story of Jesus hanging on the cross, forgiving those around Him is a great story to read through with your children about forgiveness (you can find this story in Luke chapter 23).
If Jesus could forgive those that had hurt him so deeply, then can’t we forgive the one who pushed us on the playground last week? Christ’s example can speak volumes, but there are a few other things to discuss when talking to children about forgiveness.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. - Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Forgiveness is a reoccurring action in our lifetime, and it is important for children to understand this. We will have to forgive minor and major offenses from strangers as well as those closest to us throughout our lives. If a child can learn forgiveness at a young age, they will be more likely to live a life full of healthy relationships.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. - Matthew 6:14
Children also need to know the consequences of choosing not to forgive someone. They need to be made aware of the damage their unforgiveness can do not only to their relationship with their offender, but also with God.
Unforgiveness directly affects our relationship with God. As we hold on to anger and hurt, those heavy emotions make it difficult for us to feel the Holy Spirit’s nudges or hear God’s voice in our lives. Add to that the fact that bitterness can take a toll on your physical body as well as your emotional state, and you can be confident in telling your children that not forgiving others is bad for them.
Show your child how wonderful forgiving another can be through your example. Have a small spat with your husband or one of your other children? Show your children how when you forgive, it has a very liberating effect, mending hurts and bringing you closer to the other person.
All offenses are not the same, and some are much harder to forgive than others. Learning to forgive is an ongoing lesson for children and adults, but teaching children while they are young that forgiveness is important will set them on the right path, providing a foundation for later teaching opportunities.
Join the Conversation
Share your tips for teaching children forgiveness in the comments below. Do you have a favorite verse or story from the Bible that you use?