School has finished for the long summer holidays. Originally, schools had a long summer break so the children could help bring in the harvest. I don’t think our one afternoon of helping with the hay could count as much help in bringing the harvest home. We missed the shearing too, by being away. I was looking forward to helping with the shearing and getting covered in the strange but amazing phenomenon known as lanolin. I was looking forward to coming home smelling like a sheep and feeling that my skin had been pampered with raw oil. It perhaps would have done my skin good after the minute pin pricks I acquired from the hay, because I forgot what it’s really like and that I should have covered my legs and arms, but it was such hot work.
With school finished, I have a little more time on my hands to write a record of my recent thoughts. I have been enjoying the closeness I have seen with my children in the ways that they relate to and look after each other . I have had time to observe them afresh and discuss their uniqueness, their gifts/talents and their journey with God. They’ve been needing affirmation and they’ve been very open in expressing themselves.
I’ve had time to think and this has been my question: What is the most important life lesson to learn? To voice it another way, what is the greatest lesson I can teach my children that will make them strong in character?
I’m sure there are many answers that must relate well to the different seasons of their lives. When they are very young, I felt it was important to teach them to share. They needed to learn the world didn’t revolve around them. Now they are older, I think it’s important that they learn discernment so that they become wise. I remember someone telling me before Josiah was born that one of the most valuable things I could teach my children was self-motivation. If that is from the same class as self-control, then yes, it is an extremely valuable thing to teach my children.
But is there one thing that if taught to them will stand them in good stead and make them strong in character, helping them to weather whatever comes their way? Perhaps trying to define one thing is too ambitious, but as I watch adults around me and their responses to other people I have concluded that one of the hardest but greatest lessons I could teach my children is how to deal with offense. The truth is that all of us at some stage in our lives will be offended by someone. Some of us will be hurt very deeply by someone else, others only marginally. The chances are it will rarely happen just once.
We always teach our children to say “Sorry”, but less often do we teach our children to say “I forgive you”. In as much as I try to teach my children to say sorry, I try to teach them to say I forgive you whether someone who has hurt them says sorry or not. I make them say it to each other. It especially helps when I’m playing the judge on a situation I really haven’t got clear evidence for who is in the right or the wrong. My hope is that learning the mechanics of saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” will make it a natural response in their psyche as they grow older. I think it is important to learn to be able and, if necessary, be the first to say both accordingly, to help repair an offense.
Saying “I forgive you” when you feel hugely and unjustly offended isn’t easy. I’m sure it is one of the hardest things to do, but in doing so it’s one of the greatest things to do. It is one of the most powerful things to right a wrong in our own hearts, even when wrong has been done to us. Forgiveness is not retribution for the wrong but being forgiving brings peace into our hearts.
I was handed a card by a gentleman in the shopping precinct the other day, when I went to get Simeon’s glasses sorted out. It was one of those “Have you ever been in an accident, where someone else was at fault?” things. They make me so cross because it is more fuel to a society that is fiery with an inability to forgive. We have come to always expect to get something instead of to give something.
Still, I find it a challenge. As an example, only recently we have been mistreated by a gentleman we don’t know very well and it was only over a small issue, but I felt quite offended. The offense began to grow in proportion and I felt justice needed to be wrought, until it struck me that no matter how righteously principled I feel, the angst at his lack of principles would dissolve if I chose to forgive him. As soon as I did, the proportion of the issue diminished and I have to say it has pretty much been resolved with a phone call from him, to Tim, today. It has been resolved with kindness and compassion instead of anger.
I’m sure I have offended and upset plenty of people. That is not my intention ever but I know that I make mistakes. If my driving is anything to go by, I’ve definitely upset a few people by my errors of judgement! I’d like to think I’m quick to say sorry but again I’m sure that I’ve frequently been oblivious to causing someone else offense. I remember a day at school when I didn’t even notice that my best friend was so annoyed with me she purposefully wasn’t talking to me. Oops!
It doesn’t appear to be a one off lesson. Life’s path has so many different vistas, as if the plant life, the geology, the width and breadth of the path, the weather patterns on the journey are the always changing circumstances and seasons of life. We have to fit the principle to the circumstance and it is easy to forget that when the circumstance is new. We’ve not encountered it before or measured our response to such a situation before.
So, is the ability to be able to say sorry and to forgive the greatest and hardest lesson I can teach my children? It’s certainly one of the most important. There is no doubt about that!