From the corner of my eye, I could see her staring at my son. It was the most unusual stare, a stare of wonder and confusion. That woman, walking into the supermarket with three children of her own, was taken aback by the words that came from my 11-year-old’s mouth:
“I forgive you.”
She didn’t speak. A word didn’t part her lips. Yet, her face said it all. And through her expression, I could hear her thoughts:
“Wow, that’s not something I hear often! A kid saying ‘I forgive you’?!”
I guess she questioned why a child, who had just been bumped by his apologetic sibling would respond quickly, almost instantly with…
“I forgive you.”
I turned toward her. Surprised that I’d turned around so quickly, her eyes popped wide open. Then, she smiled – a half-hearted smile, a smile that said, “Oh no, she caught me looking!”
Until that moment, I had never given much thought to how unusual it is to hear the words “I forgive you.” It had become common to my ears because, in my home, it’s just as common as hearing “God bless you” after a sneeze.
When I got home, I could still see that woman’s face. “Do my children sound weird?” I thought. “Am I teaching my children to be too nice in this mean world?”
But I quickly snapped out of it and came to my senses because I quickly remembered why I taught my kids to say “I forgive you.”
The Benefits of Saying “I forgive you”
I always tell my children to forgive immediately, not in hopes of making the offender feel better, but to make themselves better. Forgiveness releases anger – anger that has the potential to turn into hate. And hate produces sickness, violence, etc., and it keeps God’s blessing far, far away.
When I think about the benefits of saying “I forgive you,” sometimes, I think about that woman’s face, but not as it relates to how weird my child may have sounded to her. I think about how a phrase with such big power is used so little.
My children say “I forgive you” without thinking, immediately after an “I’m sorry.” And I know they don’t completely understand the benefits of this phrase. But it is my hope that, if they keep saying it, it’ll grow with them. And when they grow older, it’ll be easier for them to forgive; and therefore, easier for them to live.