Forgive and Forget?

Holding grudges, getting even, mean responses, never forgiving - these build tension in any home. Teaching forgiveness will bless your family's way of life now and going forward.

By Caryl W. Krueger

Categories: Family, Forgiveness, Joseph, Love

There are occasions in family life when a parent thinks, "I can NEVER forgive that!" Such an unforgiving attitude is heard by youngsters and nurtures in them similar mistaken habits. After all, Jesus, when nailed to the cross, said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34) If the Master could do that, how can we do anything less?

When a car cuts in front of you, when one child grabs a toy from another, when a friend says something cruel, when a teen damages your car, when a spouse forgets an important date, when a youngster breaks something precious....we may think, "That's unforgivable!" But couldn't/shouldn't we forgive such things? Certainly we should when we see that wrong acts of others are stepping stones in grace for ourselves. We all strive to improve our traits, and our children's too. The wrong-doer needs the grace of forgiveness - not only God's, but also ours. Our task is to lead the way to better actions, and then put out of thought the wrong actions. Yes, forget them.

Forgive and forget go hand-in-hand for parents. Solomon urges this in his wisdom in Proverbs and the English poet Alexander Pope says, "To err is human but to forgive is divine." So, let's choose the divine! This requires discipline of thought, and then, the important action of teaching the grace of forgiveness to our children.

Paul tells us to be merciful, kind, long-suffering, forgiving (Col.3:12, 13). If you are a wonderful "I love you no matter what" parent, you can encourage youngsters to use the phrase "I forgive you." You'll be amazed at the reaction when it's said between two children - it totally defuses the anger. And, when you hear those words, be sure to compliment a child on their use.

Of course, you don't forgive mistakes without some corrective conversation. Was the teen speeding? Does the spouse need a calendar of events? Do young children understand the concept of sharing? Have you made it clear that certain things are for "eyes only" and not to be touched?. If you don't make simple rules and simple systems, you can't blame others for not doing the right thing.

A wonderful family activity is the study of the story of Joseph, found in Genesis. It's worth reading together over the course of several days.

Include these verses:

  • Gen.37: 3, 4, 12, 13, 23-25, 27;
  • Gen. 39:1-4;
  • Gen. 41: 46-48, 57;
  • Gen. 42: 1, 2, 29-36;
  • Gen. 43: 1-17, 23;
  • Gen. 44:1-13, 18, 33-34;
  • Gen. 45: 1-5.

(During the reading, serve pistachio nuts and almonds since they are good Holy Land snacks. Put these in a silver cup, symbolic of Benjamin's cup.) Then, let the family act out the story, each person getting a part to play (Joseph, Benjamin, Reuben, Jacob, etc.) You can illustrate three points: the awfulness of the brothers' attitudes toward Joseph, the forgiving attitude of Joseph, and the long-term results. To complete your Holy Land meal, serve hearty lentil soup and bread for dinner.

Holding grudges, getting even, mean responses, never forgiving - these build tension in any home. Teaching forgiveness is not a one-time lesson, but one that will bless your family's way of life now and on to the next generation. Start this week to make forgiveness an essential part of each day.