In the world I grew up in, holding grudges was the rule. If someone did something hurtful or unacceptable (like any of us hasn’t done that?), the adults in my world modeled more of a zero-tolerance policy than teaching me any lessons of forgiveness. While I’m now seasoned enough to look back and see the fear and insecurity that caused all that grudge-holding, I also know that I’m not going to give in to that legacy and I want my own children to learn one of life’s great challenging lessons—forgiveness.
I have saying that I’ve noticed my kids are starting to use to: “People have a habit of acting entirely like…people.” It’s sort of a mantra I developed for myself when I was younger and I was trying to unlearn the behaviors of my childhood—namely holding grudges and not letting go of past hurts or disappointments. I sure as heck didn’t need all that baggage and becoming a parent made me feel even more driven to learn to be more accepting and forgiving of the world and all the mysterious people wandering around in it.
I think there are so many ways we can layer on the lessons about forgiveness with our kids—from the way we handle sporting events (do we blame the refs or players’ mistakes or do we just let things go with a “better luck next time” attitude), to oversights and issues at work, to how we parents deal with the big disappointments and rejections in life. Have we done the work to forgive our own parents and/or siblings or other people from our past who may have hurt us? By doing our own work and sharing that challenging process with our kids, I think we can show them that letting go and forgiveness doesn’t always come easily, but we feel better when we aren’t carrying around all those heavy grudges.
There are so many daily chances in family life to model and practice forgiveness and letting go. We can even give our kids the opportunity to forgive us for mistakes we’ve made as parents by making apologies. And we can certainly continue to show them how we work at “letting bygones be bygones” and starting fresh—giving people second chances (or thirds or fourths) and letting the past settle in where it belongs—in the past.