The other day, I did something I didn’t like, and I chose to apologize to my son for it.
Over the past few weeks, my adorable, sweet, smiley baby has become a ferocious hair puller. OK, slight exaggeration, but he does take joy in grabbing a handful of my long, straight, brown locks and pulling hard, like he’s hoping for a similar result as when he pulls the chain to turn on the light in the den.
I say, “No.” I say, “Stop.” I say, “Soft hands.” I say, “Hair is for admiring, not for pulling,” in a sweet sing-songy voice. I say, “Ow! That hurts Mama. You don’t want to hurt Mama, do you?”
The other day, he had pulled my hair countless times, and the last time really hurt. In a moment of pain, anger, and exasperation, I popped his hand.
Instantly, I felt remorse. This wasn’t a planned method of discipline, thought out and discussed with my husband for the longterm benefit of our child. This was a lack of self-control, and I owed my son an apology.
So, I apologized to my six-month-old. The hand pop didn’t hurt him (he smiled at me when I did it), and he didn’t understand the apology, but it was still important. We want to create a culture of confession and forgiveness in our home, and this was a step in laying that foundation.
Why is a culture of confession and forgiveness in our home important?
- As believers, we are a forgiven people, and people who have been forgiven much respond to that forgiveness by forgiving others. Paul told the Ephesians to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV). Christ is the perfect model of forgiveness, and we can follow his example to model forgiveness to our children.
- We are our children’s first impressions and experiences with God’s character. When we were waiting for our son’s birth, a dear friend and mother of three adult children spoke words to me that I think of nearly every day: “You are that baby’s first impression of the Father’s love.” That statement is one of the reasons we’ve parented the way we have in these early months. We have been quick to console and show compassion, generous with the snuggles, and effusive with loving words and songs, because we’ve been establishing trust, faith, confidence, and love with our son. We are giving him a glimpse of the Father. (A glimpse that, yes, includes more and more discipline as it’s age appropriate.) We are now giving our son a glimpse of God’s forgiving nature, hopefully softening his heart and preparing him to receive the Gospel (we pray regularly for that!).
- If I want my children to have a relationship with the Lord where they confess their sins to him and accept his forgiveness, I need to model that for them and give them opportunities to practice it with me. The more opportunities we give them, the more natural this process will feel to them. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).
- If my children learn that their parents who still struggle with sin and temptation are capable of forgiving them, they will, hopefully, begin to understand that God keeps His word and will forgive them. And when we’re not very good at forgiving, we can point them to a loving, forgiving God who so far surpasses Mama and Daddy! “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love …” (Nehemiah 9:17, ESV).
- The more I confess/apologize for my sin, whether to my children, to others, or to God, the more sensitive I become to the sin in my life, not in a condemning way but a sanctifying way. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV). When I embrace the fact that I’m not under condemnation, there is freedom! I am more likely to recognize my sin, confess it, accept God’s forgiveness, and walk in step with the Holy Spirit toward freedom from a particular sin. Instead of living with a sense of fear and the weight of judgement, I can call sin “sin” and engage in the process of sanctification. I want to model that for my children and engage in the process with them. I want to help them with their struggles, not condemn them for them. That starts with me modeling confession and forgiveness. (This is definitely going to be a lifetime of learning. I am not there yet!)
Later that day, I apologized to my husband for popping Asher’s hand in anger, and I asked for his forgiveness. I love that he is always quick to forgive. He’s a great model for me! I also confessed my sin to the Lord and asked for his forgiveness. I’m thankful He is a loving, forgiving God who keeps his promises.
So, what does a culture of confession and forgiveness look like in your home and your relationships? Share your stories and what works for your family!