continued from Tuesday.

It starts with Mama modeling it.  With me kneeling before them after I’ve lost my temper and yelled, saying, ‘I am sorry.  I lost my temper with you and that is not okay.  Will you forgive me?’  I have had to do that more than once.

The great thing about kids is that they are so ready to forgive.  I have never had my child say no to that request.  In fact, they are so quick to say yes, I sometimes don’t even finish my apology.

The next thing is helping them realize their own guilt in conflict.  When one while intentionally offends another, they need to recognize that as wrong.  When one brother wallops his sister, he needs to recognize that as wrong.  We all have that God-given conscience inside of us, and a child’s conscience is often very tender.  Our job is to keep it tender.  To keep them in-tune with that ‘alert system’ that tells them when they have sinned.  Unless they can recognize that hitting is wrong or being mean is wrong, any attempt as an apology is pointless.

Once they can recognize that, I will again walk them through.  My end goal isn’t that they will mimic what Mommy says all the time.  My goal is that they will eventually take the initiative to reconcile with brothers and sisters, and mom and dad, and others, without prompting. But while they are young, and while they are being training, I need to help them know what to say.  They have full license to change the words to their own, as long as the meaning is the same.

So, brother wallops sister on the head with a car — true scenario.  Here is how that conversation might go.

Me to brother: “Alexander, your job as the big brother is to protect your sister, not to hurt her.  Right?”

Alexander: ‘yes. I protect her.’  (his actual words 😉

Me: ‘were you protecting her or hurting her when you hit her?’

Alexander: ‘i protect her.’  (I then give him the right answer and remind him that hitting his sister is not protecting).

Me: ‘hitting your sister is not kind.  God wants us to be kind. What do you need to say to her?’

Alexander: in his ever so sweet voice “I sorry Annabella”

Me: ‘What else do you need to say to her?’

Alexander: ‘will you forgive me?’  If he doesn’t remember this second part, I will remind him.

Me – to Annabella: ‘what do you say?’

Annabella to Alexander: ‘I forgive you.’

It’s important for both sides to be there.  The humbled offender seeking forgiveness, and the humble offended granting forgiveness.

It doesn’t always go this smoothly.  Rarely does the offended refuse to extend forgiveness.  More likely, it is the offender whose heart is still hard not wanting to apologize.  I don’t make them.  I may later decide I’m wrong on this, but I remember being forced to ‘say you’re sorry’ when I really wasn’t sorry.  With a long term view in mind, the goal isn’t getting them to say the words in that moment.  The goal is that 10 years down the road they will say those words without prompting when they realize they have offended someone.

And just a postscript: for a long time, in my mind apologizing was really a chance to justify what I did.  ‘I’m sorry I called you a jerk, but you did….’  And really I was just justifying my sinful behavior.   That is not what I’m writing about here.  A true apology that seeks forgiveness is an owning up to ones sinful actions.  Taking responsibility.  Calling it what it is, specifically.  A proud heart seeks to justify.  A humble heart seeks forgiveness.  And we know that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.