How to talk to kids about Forgiveness
Written by Moira Gardener / Edited by Sarah Brouwer
Kids know when they’ve been wronged. Children have a very strong sense of ‘fair’, especially when they feel they’ve been treated unjustly. Helping children ‘let it go’, forgive and move on is an important step in their development into emotionally mature adults.
Forgiveness means choosing to let go of the bad thoughts and feelings about someone or something that happens. Forgiveness is being truly sorry about an action and having the courage to ask to be let off the hook for what you did; or letting someone else off the hook for something they did to you.
But why forgive? To be free of the anger and ugly emotions that will twist us all up inside turning us into sad angry people. Forgiveness is where healing starts. Once we truly let go of what happened we will feel lighter and be free to heal our hurts.
In a Christian belief system we forgive one another just as Christ forgives us (Ephesians 4:3). Sometimes we get angry at God and blame him for things in our life. It can be hard but we also need to ask God to forgive us for blaming him. God wants the very best for us. God desires to bless us and when we hold onto anger, a grudge, or seek revenge, we don’t receive God’s blessings – instead, we become unhappy and life looks ugly.
Here is a story from the life of a lady named Corrie ten-boom. Corrie was in a prison camp in WW2. Her sister died in that camp and when the war was over Corrie went home in Holland. One day Corrie gave a talk at church on forgiveness. One of the listeners was the very guard from the prison camp. After the war he’d become a Christian. He came to her when the talk was over and asked her for forgiveness. In her own words this was her experience:
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help,’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“… woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried, ‘with all my heart!’ (http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/CorrieTenBoom.htm)
How could Corrie do this? She chose to, and when she did, it was Corrie who received healing.
Not all acts of forgiveness are this huge, but even in the small things, letting go of angry and vengeful feelings is freeing. It stops us from collecting them all up, making a big anger ball inside that can make us sick.
Forgiveness starts with our will. I will or I will not ask God to forgive me for the nasty thoughts, mistakes and actions that miss the mark He sets out in the Bible. When we do receive God’s forgiveness, we are able to extend the loving act of forgiveness to others.
Forgiveness is a choice. It means “I will let go of …” the bad thoughts and feelings about someone or something that happened.
We forgive because Jesus first forgave us. God is a forgiving God - all we need do is ask. We forgive to be free from bad thoughts and emotions that can eventually, if left unaddressed, take the joy out of life and sometimes make us ill. We forgive to free other people and ourselves.
We forgive everyone, others and ourselves. Sometimes when we hold onto anger towards God we need to ask God to forgive us too. He will.
Start with being sorry for real. Then decide to go to the person we hurt to ask for forgiveness. Let it go and don’t keep bringing it up. Sometimes we need to ask God to help us with forgiveness because it can be really hard.
If you have been hurt and the person is not sorry, forgive them anyway. You may want to ask for God’s help or talk to an adult you trust who can help.
CHECK IT OUT
Ephesians 4:3 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Luke 15:1-20 - A series of parables that show God’s love and forgiveness
Luke 15:21-32 -The story of the prodigal son, whose father was so happy to have his son return, forgave him all.
Matthew 18:21-35 – How many times must we forgive?
Matthew 7:1-5 – Judging Others
Luke 19: 1-10 – Jesus befriends the despised tax collector.
Colossians 3:13 – Forgiveness is the way to go.
Article of interest: http://www.mayoclinic.org/forgiveness/art-20047692