Asking for forgiveness is a lost art, I think. Though it is something we all know about–how rare it is these days. Sure, we say ‘sorry’ all the time, or at least we should be. But, when was the last time you actually asked someone, “Will you forgive me?” And then waited to hear the verdict…”yes” or “no.” I’m sure the last time I did was in conversation with Petersen, but that was a while ago, and besides him, I can’t think of another time. It is a hard thing, this “asking for forgiveness.” But, there is a very real, and very big difference between the two, and I think it is something worth teaching to our children and perhaps refreshing on ourselves–myself included.
Why is it so hard? Because we are prideful–I am prideful. And saying “sorry” is pretty easy–it is one sided. We can say it, move on, and tell ourselves, “ah, I said sorry, so they should be ok with it and I’ve done my part.” But there really is something so beautiful in asking for forgiveness. When you do it, and you put your heart out there to someone else to either accept or deny–talk about being humble and feeling meek. But, when that someone says “yes, I forgive you,” — wow, there is this relief that happens in my heart. And, I don’t feel the same when I just say “sorry,” because I wonder if they are forgiving me, like really forgiving me–meaning it is over, it is done. And, similarly, when Petersen has done something that intentionally hurt me and he just says “I’m sorry,” I may smile, say “ok” and we hug, but a lot of times I still am hurt and a bit mad. But, when he genuinely humbles himself and asks for forgiveness, I almost feel bad answering “yes” because what was the offense that he’s apologizing and asking forgiveness for, really? Probably something pretty minor and petty. But, hurtful nonetheless. And when this whole exchange of asking and answering happens, our hearts are refreshed and healing starts.
Now, I am not saying that the hurtful thing disappears instantly. Words and actions hurt, and they can leave deep deep scars. But, healing can start when forgiveness is involved.
Now, teaching this to our kids can be tricky and takes more effort for sure. But I truly think it is worth it–oh so worth it. Because when you start to witness your children asking their siblings for forgiveness on their own–you just might tear up. Again, I have 5 kids, so I am still teaching this, and will be for a while now. But, I think my older three (ages 7, 6 and 4) actually understand it. And, I want them to grow up doing this, so that it is normal and common for them to do–not something foreign; which is how it feels to me, still. I feel awkward asking for forgiveness and there’s a pit in my stomach. I was taught to say “sorry,” but I do not remember being taught to actually utter the words, “Will you forgive me?” What a head start we will give our children for their future spouses!
Saying Sorry vs. Asking for Forgiveness
Saying “I’m sorry” is important. But this is for accidental hurts, like the other day Lucy threw a ball and it hit Bethany directly in the head. Made her cry, etc. Lucy had to say “sorry” to Bethany, no big deal. They hugged and started playing again. Or if I bump into someone or step on your foot–“ahh I’m so sorry!” But, when the hurt to someone else is intentional, there needs to be forgiveness. Like when Lucy hits Bethany on the head on purpose out of frustration, or when Hannah *gasp* does not get her way and speaks ugly to Mommy or one of her siblings, or when Mommy loses her cool and yells at her children in anger…forgiveness is needed.
Again, this is going to take work and effort on your part, as making your kid just say “sorry” is the quicker and easier way out. But just last week, Hannah mentioned to me that Bethany was not being very nice to her and was hurting her feelings by the things she was saying. So, while giving Bethany a bath, I asked her about this and she confessed to me that she had in fact been a little mean to Hannah. This was SHOCKING to me–as Bethany is my sweet as pie, easy kid. And I honestly thought Hannah was just trying to get her sister into trouble. Nope. Bethany told me, “Yeah, I have been kind of not nice to Hannah lately Mommy.” We talked through it some more and I mentioned to her that she needed to ask Hannah for forgiveness and she said “yes Mommy, I know.”
Then at dinner that night, while Hannah was helping me with dishes Bethany out of the blue said “Hannah, I am sorry for being not nice to you–you know, the other day? Will you forgive me?” I nearly cried as I watched this exchange happen. You could just see the love oozing out of their hearts as they hugged and Hannah answered her sister with “yes.”
Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that this is how it always goes down. It doesn’t. Sometimes, they are asking for forgiveness through gritted teeth. In which case they are clearly not ready, and they are sent to “think” about it some more. Sometimes, the asking for forgiveness is a few days away. Because we are trying to teach them that when the asking and receiving of forgiveness happens, it is over and done with, truly. No more anger, no hanging on to bitterness. Really truly done. Ahhhh, yes! Such freedom in it. And trust me–these little people can feel it, you can see it. And it. is. beautiful. Just like our Savior intended.