Forgiveness: The Key to a Happy Family
If there is one skill that is essential to having a healthy, happy family, it is learning how to forgive. Forgiveness will determine the future of your relationships with your spouse and your kids.
Have you ever thought about how you resolve conflict, or what tools for forgiveness you’ve inherited from your family? Some of us have adopted the world’s view on forgiveness, which is, “I will forgive you as soon as I’m done punishing you, or as soon as you’ve earned it,” while others of us have a hard time seeing our own need for forgiveness.
Whether we are holding a grudge in self-righteousness (“I would never do that, I can’t believe you did that to me”), or whether we are holding on to bitterness (“I will never forgive you or forget the way you treated me”). Unforgiveness, when left unchecked in our hearts, will leave our families with only bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness is a two-way street; it requires that you are able to both give and receive forgiveness. The key to changing the way your family resolves conflict—no matter how broken—lies in how you build forgiveness into your family culture. This is hard work, but definitely worth the effort.
The way to build a culture of forgiveness into your family is to first recognize that as believers, we forgive because Jesus first forgave us. Think about that for a moment. Did Jesus wait until you deserved to be forgiven? Will you ever be able to earn His forgiveness? No way!
The same is true for your family. The truth is, Beloved, your spouse or your family will never be able to earn or deserve your forgiveness. Placing this kind of impossible burden on them will give you the exact opposite of a happy family – it will leave you with a bitter family.
Paul wrote in the book of Colossians,
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV, emphasis mine)
And Jesus Himself said,
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)
Here are a few practical ways you can build a culture of forgiveness into your family and thus enjoy the fruits of a happy family:
Model gentleness even to those family members who have hurt you
“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 MSG)
You know the old saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”; it means to not come to a fight inadequately prepared. But the trouble some of us have is that we’re bringing a weapon to the conversation at all.
So many families have inherited broken ways of dealing with hurt and conflict. The result is that instead of coming to our brother in gentleness, with a heart to restore the relationship, we come to our brother with a weapon (our hurts, or the offense) with the heart of someone who’s been betrayed. We are ready to fight.
The word ‘gentle’ in the verse above means mild and fair; It can also mean moderate and patient. The idea is that we come to our brother with patience and fairness, even if he has offended us or sinned against us. We aren’t looking to see them punished. We are looking to see them restored.
Going to your brother in gentleness requires that you spend some time calming down if you started in a place of anger. This is part of the process where we first take our hurts, our wounds, and our offenses to Jesus, who paid the price for them all.
Forgive quickly — the same way that God has forgiven you
In the years I’ve spent coaching families, I’ve noticed that they usually thrive or fail based on how quickly they learn to forgive one another.
When we are able to quickly forgive, it helps us keep the relationship intact. Often, we feel like we need time or space to get over the offense, but that time and space adds additional hurt and stumbling blocks on the road back to forgiveness.
Forgiving quickly doesn’t necessarily mean the offense is over and forgotten. Sometimes forgiving quickly means bringing that person before the Lord, and forgiving them in the same way that Christ has forgiven you. How has Christ forgiven you? Was it when you cleaned up your act and became perfect? Was it when you begged for mercy? No. He forgave you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).
Once you’ve cleared your heart before the Lord, you are in a better position to work on the problems or issues in the relationship that caused the offense in the first place.
Create new family rules and a new family culture
My family has a house rule that it is not ok for you to go to bed angry, or without having first talked through the hurt. This particular rule has meant a lot of late nights for us, but it has also pushed us to forgive and to ask for forgiveness a lot quicker.
You may create a new house rule on how you talk about forgiveness or how you treat offenses. For example, when someone asks for forgiveness, it is not ok to be sarcastic or mock them (as children often do), but we must honor their vulnerability and courage to come and do the right thing by showing them respect and giving them an answer.
You might also consider how your family forgives and offers forgiveness. For example, if you have forgiven someone, is it ok in your family to continually bring up that same mistake over and over again? Perhaps your family needs to start fresh and say, “Once an offense has been forgiven, it’s done. We can talk about it in order to positively move forward and support one another, but it is not ok in future arguments to continue to bring up past mistakes that have already been forgiven.”
Forgiveness is the key to a happy family because it keeps us close and protects us from bitterness. Prayerfully following these practical steps will build a whole new family culture—not only for you and your family, but for generations to come.
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:15 MSG)
Remember, the Father loves you and sent His Son to let you know!
To assist you in creating a daily routine of reading God’s Word, connecting with the Holy Spirit and receiving the Father’s Blessing, we’ve created a free devotional that reviews key scriptures essential to being a good father. It comes to you by email every day, takes only a few minutes to read, and connects you to the Father and the Holy Spirit every day. Click here to sign up for the free devotional!
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Published on April 11, 2018.