“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
“I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” Two of the hardest things to overcome adult pride and say. Partially because in our childhood, preserving pride was probably modeled rather than sorrow [aka being sorry] and forgiveness.
However, beyond modeling true sorrow and forgiveness, as our children’s spiritual guides, we ought also to instruct them in when to be and how to show this sorrow and/or forgiveness as appropriate.
When they are young, we walk them through making their offenses right with siblings and other relatives or playmates. In our house, from the time our children could walk and talk [and take toys, and bite or pull hair, or whatever the childish offense may have been], we: 1) required the offending child to say, “I’m sorry,” and hug the one they hurt; 2) required the offended child to say, “I forgive you,” and hug back the one who hurt them; 3) spoke to both children about how God wants us to truly be sorry for the wrong that we do and make it right with those we hurt, and how He wants us to forgive those who wrong us. Often we included scriptures about loving God and each other as a foundation to the need for sorrow and forgiveness.
As our children get older, we expect them to start to demonstrate spiritual autonomy in both habit and right attitudes. If they do not, we take the opportunity to bring our children back to the Word and instruct them again, hoping to correct the inner workings leading to the wrong actions and attitudes.
Lord willing, this start on the path of sorrow and forgiveness will take root in their hearts so that, when they are on their own, our children–to the glory and honor of God–will not depart from it. We pray that we will be faithful to instruct our children, so that they will truly forgive others as the Lord forgave them.