Our culture today is we live in a cancel culture, which is to say that we really don’t understand, or we cannot figure out as a culture when somebody does something that’s clearly wrong, how are they ever redeemed? How are they ever restored or ever brought back in? Do we even understand what forgiveness is? And one of the things, or the ideas that I’ve heard sort of thrown around that I thought was really interesting is that part of the problem is that we now are not being raised in sibling groups the way in the past many people were raised. And when you are living your life with a bunch of siblings, you have to constantly learn how to forgive. Even those who are being raised in sibling groups, oftentimes what you’ll see in our culture is we will individualize the kids, put them in their own rooms, give them their own stuff, keep them sort of separated from each other, making sure that they don’t ever have to really figure out how to learn to love each other and forgive each other.
And so part of what we want to encourage you guys to do is if you have multiple kids or you’re thinking about raising a larger family, one of the challenges you’re going to have to face, that’s really going to bless your kids and the world, is you’re going to have to help your kids figure out how to forgive each other when they hurt each other over and over and over again. And this is a very old problem, you guys. In Luke 17, Jesus was asked that, what do you do if your brother sins against you seven times in the same day and turns to you, and Jesus says, if they turn to you and say, seven times, I repent, you must forgive them. And then Jesus also talks about in Matthew 18, he talks through the idea of this constantly forgiving 70 times seven.
This is a really famous way that Jesus talked about forgiveness, that we do extend a ton of forgiveness to, again, even in this context, he says to your brother. And so there was a sense in these cultures where there was sort of a limit to how much forgiveness you could extend in a day or overall to a brother, and you’d actually count, if you get to seven, maybe that was the limit. And so a huge part of what you guys are going to be working through with your kids is how do you craft a culture of forgiveness where it actually is healing enough to help them have deep relationships. And I used to think it was as simple as telling your kids to really quickly say, “Say you’re sorry, say you’re sorry. Say I love you hug, kiss, makeup, whatever.”
But one of the things that’s interesting that Jesus says in Luke 17 is the brother says, “I repent.” And then Jesus says, then you forgive him. I don’t think that he’s necessarily saying that you don’t forgive them if they don’t say that. But I do think that one of the steps that you need to learn, if you really want your kids to forgive each other from the heart, when they’re going to hurt each other seven times a day, is that you have to help them to not just forgive, but also to repent to each other, to be able to articulate really clearly like, “Hey. Whoa, whoa, whoa. All right, they’re going to say that they’re sorry. But first, can you explain how that made you feel when they did that to you.” Really help your kids empathize with the actual pain or damage being done to the other person.
And so I don’t know that for me, in my fathering, there was this constant tension I was feeling between really training children to be openhearted and forgiving and not holding grudges and also training the kids who were kind of constantly doing the damage to also become empathetic to listen to and at times to ask, “How can I … Is there anything I can do to make this right?” And so it’s that constant balance of repentance and forgiveness that I think really creates a real health in a family and particularly in a sibling group. But Jeff, what are your … How have you thought about doing this?
I agree. And I think I love that. And it’s one thing I would just add is what you just said is make sure your kids do it the right way, not do the ritual. Right. And so I’m always calling out, we do when our kids do have these meetings, I’ll try to coach them, moments I’ll try to coach them and “Hey, I want you to go up to your sister and just have a talk with her. I want you …” and sometimes I’ll try to make it vague because I want to see how they’ll do it. I don’t want to say, say this. I don’t usually say, “Say I’m sorry,” but just say, “Hey, can you go ask her for forgiveness? Can you apologize? Can you tell her what you did?” I just got to try to get the conversation going for them, which I think helps.
And then two, if they do it with any type of ritualistic, like just say it to say it, then I just immediately stop it. And just kind of basically like, no. Eye contact, think about that. That’s not the way we do it. I want you to understand. All these different things. But that is stuff though, too, because I do think there’s a tension there that I think is really tough line to walk because I think sometimes if you’re only waiting to then say sorry, or ask for forgiveness until you feel it, that doesn’t ever always go well either, right? There’s something about the semi ritual of doing it. That basically you’re basically almost …. That’s almost the horse that’s leading the wagon, right? That your wagon, your emotions will catch up sometimes when you force yourself. And I think CS Lewis talks about that somewhere brilliantly, where he paints that picture of like sometimes though also doing it kind of [inaudible 00:05:13].
And you’ve noticed that, right, when you kind of begrudgingly, when I begrudgingly go to Alyssa and say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” What’s funny is sometimes I like, then all of a sudden, my heart just softens right in that moment. I’m like, “Okay, I am sorry.” He wants them to say the begrudging one, and then to let it soften you up to then say the second one. So I don’t know, that’s a really tough tension, I think, to walk with children. But I think being mindful of the whole thing is really important of not letting it be ritualistic or just do it to do it because then that only hardens hearts. But then also there is a level I think, of the ritual of the back and forth that is important. Coaching the kids, how to really seek the highest good and repentance and the love of each other. So yeah. So it’s way more well rounded than just the bam, this has done the transaction. There’s another word I’m trying to think of. So yeah, I think that’s really important.
So I think you guys, this is going to be one of the biggest challenges I think you’re going to have as a father, is just in a situation where there is something happening like this, you have to sort of get involved enough to figure out whose heart you’re going to work on. Like Jeff’s describing. Sometimes the heart that you’re working on. Is there one forgiving and that you need to tell the gospel to them, help them understand. Guys, the foundation of our forgiveness is never that the person doing the damage has earned, or we owe them forgiveness. The only ground of forgiveness Jesus says is that I have forgiven you so much. So now I’ve told that you’re standing on the ground of unmerited forgiveness, you need to give unmerited forgiveness to others. And so it’s the gospel that really, gospel in your kids’ hearts that needs to drive that conversation.
And then over here, when you’re talking to a child who has done the damage and really hard hearted is unrepentant, really helping them empathize. And sometimes really making sure … I read one study one time that described how you create empathy in a child. And one of the things that they said is that the biggest thing that creates empathy in a child is consequences for them doing wrong, not actually trying to get them to understand what the other person went through, and that’s kind of the ground of empathy. And so sometimes when you have an unrepentant child, who’s has a hard heart they’re there does need to be discipline there. And that’s a part of trying to create this balance, but man, what you guys want, and this is going to be one of the biggest challenges of your life as you’re raising siblings is you create a culture of real forgiveness in the home, but what that does and what we’re talking about in our culture, that increasingly does not understand forgiveness for them to suddenly see emerging all of these families that really are truly gracious to one another, even in the face of a lot of really tough stuff, that’s going to preach the gospel.