How do you teach someone a skill that you haven’t mastered yourself? How do you lead someone through a journey you don’t quite know how to navigate yourself? How do you teach your sons to be forgiving when you are still learning how to forgive?
This is the predicament I face as a father in trying to teach my sons how to be forgiving. With having two rambunctious boys in the house, there are plenty opportunities to teach them how to be forgiving. Someone is usually getting kicked, punched, stepped or elbowed by accident or “accident”, on a daily basis. So the lessons on how to properly apologize and how to forgive are quite frequent.
Those lessons are easy. You hurt your brother by accident, you apologize, you hug him, you make sure he is ok and your brother forgives you. The hard lessons to learn and accept are how to forgive yourself and how to forgive when someone hurts your feelings. Physical pain is a temporary, mental and emotional pain can be everlasting in some cases.
I am figuring out that to be truly forgiving one must have a very strong sense of self. I teach them to be confident, to be happy with themselves and to love who and how they are. I also teach my sons how to be a good empathetic person. The question: “How would you like if someone did that to you?” gets asked a lot. They learn what are good and bad actions. They learn to process when someone is being good, and when someone is being hurtful.
I hope that in the combination of those lessons, they can learn not only how to forgive others, but also how to move on. I hope they learn that holding on to grudges and anger only truly affects them. I think they are, and honestly, they are teaching me quite a bit about forgiveness. It amazes me the compassion I see in their eyes when I apologize for something I have done wrong. It melts me when they hug and tell me they love me when I apologize for letting them down. It humbles me when I see them forgive others and how they stand strong and proud even after being hurt.
Maybe it is my age or maybe it is the life I lived, but I find my ego and my willingness to truly forgive often at odds. I don’t see that in them and it makes me not only happy but humble and proud to be their dad. I always tell my boys, “I want you to grow up to be a better man me”. They look at me like I am an alien when I tell them, but I already see it in them. They forgive, not only in words but in spirit. They let go of the hurt before it becomes the all-consuming anger.
In all honesty, I am trying to teach and guide them on how to become good men, how to be self-confident yet humble, how to be strong yet carrying and how to be independent yet noble, and from the good young men they are becoming, I think it is sticking. But when it comes to being forgiving they are ones teaching me. I hold onto the hot embers of resentment in my hands as they let theirs go. I squeeze the blade of anger as they just drop theirs and move on. I see a compassion in them that truly motivates me to be a better man.
As I venture through this journey of fatherhood, I am humbled and lucky to have a pair of boys who look at me with admiration and love. While they don’t realize it is me who admires the amazing people they are, one day I hope to learn to forgive like they do and finally be at peace. Although tiny is stature, for now, it is them who are the bigger men when it comes to forgiveness.
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