When you or I say, “I forgive you,” we’re supposed to put the situation behind us, right?
Well, yes… but there’s something else that’s supposed to happen. The offending person is supposed to change. It’s called repentance.
I can remember a handful of times when my wife or myself have been dealing with one of our children about the very same issue, for the thousandth time.
OK, not the thousandth, but it seems like it when there’s been an ongoing pattern of dealing with the same issue.
In those situations, it’s not uncommon for one of us to say something like this…
I forgive you, but saying ‘I’m sorry’ isn’t going to cut it anymore. You need to become truly sorrowful about this and allow the Holy Spirit to help you change.
It’s painful to admit, but my wife has even said those words to me at times.
As important as it is to forgive and to say the words “I forgive you,” it can sometimes enable the offending person to feel like they are off the hook.
The issue’s over. It’s out of play. No more will be said about it.
But if true repentance, accompanied by godly sorrow has not occurred, it’s not over. Is it?
That’s where statements like the one my wife has said to me comes from. She realized that for some reason, though I was truly sorry in my heart, I hadn’t taken the issue seriously enough to truly begin moving toward change. It was evident by the fact that I was repeating the same old offense.
Her blunt statement to me was a wake up call. It was her way of putting me on notice, letting me know that she wasn’t going to stand by while I said one thing but did another.
Do you have anyone in your life who cares enough to call you out like that?
You need to. Those are the people who keep you from becoming hardened by your own sin.
Talking to your kids about this issue is vital.
They need to understand that the old adage is true; “Actions speak louder than words.” They need to understand that forgiveness is not a “get out of jail free” card. It costs something… intentional change.
How can you communicate this important truth?
- You may find a comment like my wife’s to be helpful in certain situations. Just be sure to make it clear that change of heart is what leads to change in behavior.
- You may decide to take a direct, scriptural approach and plan a family devotion around this subject.
- You could take your kids out on a date, individually to discuss the issue on age appropriate levels.
The options are as limitless as your imagination. Most of all, you just need to do it.
The impact of ignoring the “I forgive you” dilemma
There are a number of things that could result from a wrong understanding of this issue. Note that: these things could happen. Whether they do or not depends on the environment of your home, your child’s personality, how much spiritual maturity they have, and a number of other things.
But what could go wrong if they don’t understand this repentance/forgiveness combination?
- Instead of taking their sin seriously, they could begin to make the person they’ve offended responsible. “You just need to forgive me,” OR “I said I’m sorry, what more do you want?”
- They could learn to avoid the very real and helpful role that sorrow over sin plays in life. That makes it extremely hard to get to repentance at all.
- Defensiveness could become their normal mode of operation. They’ll become hard rather than soft.
Why is this kind of repentance so difficult for you kids, and for you?
It comes down to one, simple thing.
We don’t like that we have to admit our wrongs, our failures, our sins. We don’t want others to think of us that way.
But why not?
When we’ve sinned, it’s all true. We find freedom and release when we confess it, repent of it, and move on.by