I heard a story years ago about men who had been banned to the galley of a merchant ship because of their crimes. Their punishment involved hard labor and long days turning the huge wheels that kept the ship in motion. On one occasion, when it came to harbor near the shore, the king made a surprise visit. He went from man to man asking them what horrible crime they had committed. The first man claimed he had been framed for a robbery. The second man said he had been mistaken for someone else who had committed murder.
Everyone seemed to be making excuses until the king finally happened upon an individual who admitted that he had stolen something that wasn’t his. The man explained how he had lived during a season of his life when he didn’t care about anyone else. He wept about how his greediness and selfishness had affected his family. Upon hearing the man’s confession, the king responded, “Your crime was awful and offensive. What are you doing in the middle of all of these honest men? Guards, release this man from his chains and let him go. He doesn’t belong here!”
The point is, you can’t be forgiven unless you take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. This month, we will spend a lot of energy and time talking about why and how you should forgive other people. But it’s also important to recognize the fact that we all need to be forgiven. One of the secrets to forgiving others is learning how to be forgiven.
Think about it. If there is someone who you have obviously offended, then maybe this would be a great month to connect last month’s virtue, humility, to this month’s virtue, forgiveness. This could be a great chance to humble yourself, admit you were wrong and pursue making it right. There is something about experiencing true forgiveness that makes a person more forgiving. Everyone needs forgiveness from time to time. And our children need to see us not only forgive, but ask to be forgiven. I remember asking two college boys, who seemed very emotionally healthy, to tell me one thing they felt like their dad had done right. The both immediately said, “He was always quick to admit when he was wrong and say he was sorry.”
When is the last time your child heard you say you were wrong and ask for forgiveness? What you do wrong may provide a much greater lesson for your children than what you ever do right. If you will admit it, that is.