We know someone, who tragically lost his life to senseless violence. During the memorial service, his teenage son shared many fond memories of his father. He said one thing in particular that resonated within me. He said the most important lesson he learned from his dad is forgiveness, not from talking about it, but from living it. He went on to say that his dad wasn’t perfect, and there were times that his dad would get angry with him. But what this young man remembered was that his dad would always come back to him and ask for forgiveness. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “When I am long gone, will my children say they learned about forgiveness from me?”
My mind went on fast rewind as I tried to recall if I have been a good example to my children in forgiveness. Sadly, I know there have been times I haven’t gone to them and asked for forgiveness. It’s not a big deal, I would think to myself. They’ve already forgotten about it. In their younger years, we may even think it unnecessary to ask for forgiveness from our children. But that’s not true at all. They learn many things from our actions. What better way for me to teach my children humility and reconciliation with others than by doing it myself. More importantly, I am showing them how to approach God Himself. They don’t have to be afraid of Him or feel they have to be living perfectly to go to God. Perfect people don’t need forgiveness.
When there is conflict between two people, there exists a barrier in the relationship. Inaction only strengthens that barrier, and some even carry it to their graves. Forgiveness completely breaks down that barrier. Sure, there may be rocks and rubble leftover. It may take time for all that mess to be cleared away, but at least, now, the two can face each other and can begin the process of restoration. When I get angry at my children, there is no doubt they are fully aware of the dividing wall. In their world, they are completely dependent on me. So, when I fail to ask for forgiveness, they feel completely alone, as if I put them in an elevator and let the doors close between us. The simple act of saying, “Will you forgive me?” opens those doors again. And you know what I’ve discovered … they are always eager to forgive me.