It's been said that "A good marriage is the union of two forgivers." I couldn't agree more. Family life is no different. It requires even more forgiveness and grace than marriages does, simply because there are more people involved!
I would go so far as to say that without forgiveness, families don’t survive. An unforgiving, unyielding parent sets the tone for heartbreak and ruin in years to come.
Family life requires a daily laying down of self, doesn't it? Motherhood is a series of little and big opportunities to die to ourselves so that our children might flourish. Think of the mom with the newborn who would give almost anything for some sleep—yet cries from the bassinet beckon and she can’t help but smile at the beautiful infant she sees looking up at her. Suddenly, sleep becomes less important than taking care of her baby. On and on it goes, this laying down.
Forgiveness is a laying down, too. It’s a laying down of pride and the selfish desire to be “right.” Learning to be a good forgiver is one key to successful parenting and marriage.
Over the years, I've spoken to many moms about this and it seems it's a common struggle. Sometimes it's easier to be kind to the woman at WalMart than it is to be gracious to my own kids or my husband.
We easily take our most precious relationships for granted, because we feel the most comfortable with the ones with whom our relationships are the most secure.
I have been on both ends of un-forgiveness in relationships. Both sides hurt. When we refuse to forgive, bitterness is the sure result—and bitterness is the death of real relationship. Over time, unforgiveness becomes poisonous—and the one who suffers the most is the one who won’t forgive.
Unforgiveness is like swallowing poison—and expecting the other person to die.
Refusal to accept another’s apology is equally damaging. Our pride gets in the way and it keeps us from letting the offender off the hook. Of course, in the end, the person on the hook is the one who can’t move on in freedom and forgiveness.
Life is hard. Sometimes, we wait our whole lives for an apology we will never get. I want to challenge you to forgive—even in the absence of a deserved apology. Sometimes, I’ve learned, we must accept the apology we will never get in an effort to bring peace to our own soul and move forward.
Of course, there are things that are not easy to forgive, but forgive we must. Forgive for yourself. Forgive for your children. If you want your children to learn to forgive and move on, they must see you do it first.
As mothers, we are setting the example. Our children are watching us—and actions speak louder than words.
Do you need to be forgiven? Ask for it. Do you need to forgive? Don't put it off.
Your family is worth it.
Heidi St. John
Photo courtesy of Lifesong Photography