Becoming a parent to any number of children has a unique way of humbling us. We suddenly have a smaller version of ourselves running around the house, mirroring our weaknesses, and causing us to see where we fall short on a daily basis. That realization stings a little.
Children learn by what they have modeled in front of them from the very beginning of their young lives. If we pray, they will pray. If we laugh and smile, they will laugh and smile. If they see a mom or dad who refrains from judgement and is quick to forgive, they will follow that example. Teaching a child to be forgiving is best done by example from the beginning. However, those tough teen years arrive eventually, or perhaps we are still struggling to be a better example. Then what?
My kids can hold grudges like no other! I struggle with this kind of negativity which comes into my home. Every. Single. Day. I cannot force them to frankly forgive one another, as Nephi did for his elder brothers, but I can help them think about their actions. Rather than lecture them in those intense moments, I find it more effective to let them blow off steam until they have had enough time to deal with their emotions and can come back with a level head so we can talk it out.
We talk about how many times the prophet Nephi was wronged by his brothers and he never withheld forgiveness. We talk about Joseph Smith who quickly forgave those who turned against him and tried to hurt his name. We talk about the Savior, who in His agony, pled for the Father to forgive those who were abusing Him and who would end His short mortal mission. When we speak the Savior’s name, it brings a special feeling, as if it somehow wakes them from a deep sleep.
In the recent women’s conference, Sister Sharon Eubank gave a beautiful message. She said, “Each of us is going to have deeply wounding experiences, things that should never happen. Each of us will also, at various times, allow pride and loftiness to corrupt the fruit we bear. But Jesus Christ is our Savior in all things. His power reaches to the very bottom and is reliably there for us when we call on Him. We all beg for mercy for our sins and failures. He freely gives it. And He asks us if we can give that same mercy and understanding to each other. Jesus put it bluntly, “Be one and if ye are not one, ye are not mine.” 1
If they do not respond to our pleas to love one another and be gentle with one another, can we appeal to their love of the Savior for change? We might ask them to consider how merciful the Savior has been with them. If He extends mercy, then we, both our children and us, can be more charitable to others.
President Nelson said, “We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. …True change- permanent change- can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. … The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change!” 2
We ultimately teach our need for the Savior individually, and in time, the children will begin to see things a little bit differently. Their own love for Jesus Christ will lead them to be more forgiving. Until then, be the example of forgiveness that they need to see.
- “By Union of Feeling, We Obtain Power with God,” Sister Sharon Eubank, October 2020 Women’s Conference
- “Decisions for Eternity”, Elder Russell M. Nelson, October 2013 General Conference