It was a Saturday a couple of weeks ago. Ryan was playing with Levi in our room on the bed and I was in Levi’s room next door putting laundry away. For just a moment Ryan stepped away from the bed to get something from the closet and Levi—of course—quickly followed after him, toppling off the bed and down to the ground causing a massive thud and quite a fright.
Ryan scooped up our little screaming child to console him as I muttered angrily under my breath about the fact that he knew better than to leave our extremely mobile (and fast) kid unattended.
But really, it all happened in a matter of seconds.
As quickly as my mama bear anger rose, my loving wife sympathy rose soon after. In all honesty I knew that I could have just as easily done the same thing. (And—no doubt—I’ve already had my fair share of parenting blunders in the last eight months.)
I went in to make sure everything was alright and also to tell Ryan that it was okay and I wasn’t angry, and found him apologizing to Levi and asking his forgiveness.
When I commented to Ryan that it was wonderful to see his humility with our child by asking his forgiveness even before Levi could understand, Ryan quickly responded with, “it’s probably more for me than for him.”
As parents we are bound to make mistakes – some out of ignorance and just not knowing any better, and others out of carelessness or selfishness or any other number of reasons. The important thing is not that we are “prefect parents” – we all know this will never happen! The important thing is that we are quick to admit our mistakes, humble ourselves before our kids, and ask for their forgiveness. (And it’s never too early to start.)
We all know that when someone asks for forgiveness it is much easier to not hold a grudge against them. Of course we all want our children to grow up with as little reason to hold grudges toward us as possible so that we can maintain strong, healthy relationships.
And that alone is a great reason to ask for forgiveness as we go.
But what we fail to remember is that much of the time asking for forgiveness is just as important for us as it is for the person we’re asking it of. (Because as humbling as it is, we all desire that feeling of being “right” by others.)
The reverse of that is also true: extending forgiveness to someone who has wronged us can be just as much for our own sake (or sometimes even more) than it is for the person we’re forgiving.
Because what if that person never offers an apology? Or what if they don’t see or agree that they’ve done something wrong?
Does that gives us license to forever hold a grudge?
Maybe… But I have learned that forgiveness is one of the single most important keys to having a healthy inner world. It’s impossible to grow and heal and be free within yourself when you hold unforgiveness and bitterness in your heart. (Unfortunately, even lessons we’ve already learned can be easily forgotten.)
I was reminded of this key as I took my shower this morning. There I was shaving my legs, singing “Old McDonald had a Farm” to entertain Levi as he played on the bathroom floor, and all of a sudden it occurred to me: there was a situation in my life where I had not yet forgiven someone who had hurt me. I had been waiting for an apology… and yet this morning I realized it might never come.*Light bulb moment.*
I was left with two choices: grow bitter and resentful at the situation and the person, or forgive and let go of my negative feelings so that they wouldn’t fester and become worse.
Guess which one I chose?
I chose to forgive.
Another way of saying “forgive” is to say “let go”. I needed to let go of my attitude and let go of my expectations.
Does this mean I become a doormat? Does this mean that I will never feel any more pain in regards to the situation? Does this justify the offence? Does this mean that I move on and pretend that it never existed in the first place?
No it does not.
But it does release me from the negativity within. And if I don’t let go of that… no doubt it will fester making me hardened and bitter and resentful.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to become a cranky old woman.
And I can tell you from experience, it feels good to let go. There’s a power in forgiveness that’s difficult to express unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
So how about you?
Dear friends, is this a life-lesson that you need to learn… or re-learn? Is there something in your life that you need to let go of? Or someone you need to forgive? How about with your children? Are you teaching them what it means to be humble? No doubt we instruct them to apologize to a sibling or a friend when they’ve done something wrong… but do you ask forgiveness of your children when you’ve made a mistake that involves them or snapped and said something you shouldn’t have? Have you demonstrated to them that you don’t expect perfection, but you do expect that when mistakes are made there should be an honest and heartfelt apology? Do you need to ask for forgiveness or extend forgiveness today?
Relieved to have let go,
Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️
Jhen.Stark1 October 2010 at 2:26 pm
What a beautiful post! I love that we need to focus just as much as teaching our children to forgive as we do teaching them "asking for forgiveness". Love it! I'll be praying for God to put on my heart, anyone or anything that I need to forgive that I haven't and then go make it right! Great post Adriel!
Mandy1 October 2010 at 2:29 pm
I was thinking about this the other day. One of the only things within our control is the power to forgive. We can't control what other people do or say, but we can control how we handle it.
Sure it feels good to hold a grudge sometime, but we're really hurting ourselves when we do. I truly believe that we can not fully be at peace with ourselves and our lives if we have resentment in our hearts. Letting go is hard, but necessary none the less!
Casey Martinez1 October 2010 at 4:06 pm
my little one is still very little but, both my hubby and myself apologize to her whenever something happens, even if she just bops her own head with a toy we so, "oh boo boo we are so sorry." I hope she learns to be humble. I believe that humility is sooooo important and is such an amazing quality in a human being. My hubby too feels awful if Daisy gets hurt and apologizes to make himself feel better. It's actually very endearing! hehe
cooperl7881 October 2010 at 5:31 pm
I don't know why, but I definitely was tearing up at this post. Maybe it's because you so poignantly describe a situation we've all been in. I think I'm constantly re-learning the art of forgiveness, in different ways. As a child, we learn how to Say Sorry for mistakes or hurting someone's feelings. As a teenager, you learn to say sorry so that relationships can move forward. When you get married, you learn to say sorry without giving in, and to forgive and mean it. But as a parent, you start to learn the true feeling of humility and desire for forgiveness from (little)someone. I think it's important to model the behavior we want our kids to have. So that means that when I do something wrong, I need to apologize to her. She doesn't get it yet, but she's learning how to apologize and to forgive. Great post! (Sorry for the novel)
Dusty Mommah1 October 2010 at 5:50 pm
What a "drop your rock" moment! Nichole Johnson, a Christian dramatist, had a vignette called "Rocks", and in it she addresses the fact that sometimes we have every right to throw a rock at someone for wrongs done to us, and yet we have the choice to either throw the rock, or choose a "drop your rock" moment, and hear the soft thud of grace as our rock hits the ground. And the thud of grace cannot be heard until you let go of the rock and grab on to The Rock!
Thank you for the reminder to let go.
Tiffany Larson1 October 2010 at 6:34 pm
I hope I forever remember the "drop your rock" phrase that Dusty Mommah mentioned – I love that! I really need to work on asking for forgiveness with my 4 year old. She is SO challenging and frustrating at this age and I'm often angry at her complete defiance! (Oh yes, I am reading The Strong Willed Child right now!) Thank you for a good reminder that I, too, have a few things I need to be working on!
Anonymous1 October 2010 at 6:43 pm
Such a good post Adriel! I teared up too, and again when I read the comments left by others. What a great group of moms who read along with me! I also loved the post by Dusty – what a great word picture that I hope I never forget! Hug Ryan for me – what a keeper!!! I love you sweet daughter. Gigi
Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)1 October 2010 at 10:37 pm
Wonderful post Adriel! Forgiveness is so important in our lives and sometimes it can be hard to recognize that we haven't done it yet like in your situation. I have certainly had to learn to move on and forgive…for myself.
And, this lesson is so vital to pass on to our children. Just as you and your husband did by apologizing to your son (which, btw, I'm sure has happened to the best of us!). Sometimes I snap at one of my children then immediately feel guilty. I always try to remember to apologize and it makes us all feel better.
Thanks for the beautiful post.
Getrealmommy1 October 2010 at 11:45 pm
My children are five and two, and I have made more mistakes than I can remember. From yelling when I should have kept my cool, to turning my back at the wrong moment, so my child ended up with a bruise, or worse stithes. None of us are perfect, and I could not agree more, that teaching our children that we can say sorry, admit our mistakes, and even forgive ourselves is a very valuable lesson.
Kerry McCullough2 October 2010 at 2:20 am
Sometimes, when I'm at church, I feel like the priest is speaking directly to me. In this case, I really feel like you wrote this post specifically for me. I have to meet with someone tomorrow who I have had a turbulent relationship my entire life. Alcohol has broken our relationship and I'm afraid it will always be a problem. I'm trying to find the balance between not being a doormat and not being completely cold. It's so tough!! but I'm working on it 🙂
Heather2 October 2010 at 3:04 am
What a great post! Children teach us so many things and open up a whole other side to ourselves we didn't know existed. Before children, my pride used to get in the way of forgiveness, I was too busy trying to prove that I was right. My daughter has taught me just how easy it can be to forgive if you really want to, she says she's sorry…and she gets immediate forgiveness. I still struggle with it when it comes to other adults, but it is easier because through my daughter I have learned that there is no reason to hold onto bad feelings, not if you really care about the person who has "wronged" you.
Rachel2 October 2010 at 9:14 am
This is why I hope you never give up blogging! I want to buy your book when it comes out. But for today, thanks for this.
Sandy3 October 2010 at 5:19 pm
Forgiveness…the antidote to self-centeredness.
Well spoken Adriel.