Did you ever notice how much easier it is to see the mistakes and faults of others rather than your own? Last week, we had a friend come over for a play date. She brought her 17 month old daughter to play with my 4 year old and 1 year old. Since my 1 year old (little V) has an older brother (K), he occasionally picks up some less than gracious behaviors. One of his new pastimes involves picking up a toy and whacking his brother in the head with it repeatedly. I of course swoop in, take the toy away, and tell him not to hit his brother, but the 4 year old just leans his head in closer trying to get him to do it again. Well, when my friend’s sweet, quiet, calm daughter came over, little V inevitably picked up a toy and whacked her in the head with it. I tried to correct and redirect him but the damage had already been done.
Later that night at bedtime, the three of us sat down after bath to read our devotion and say our evening prayers. I asked my older son if there was anything special he wanted to pray for tonight. After a brief pause, he solemnly informed me that we should ask God to forgive his brother for hitting his friend in the head. And furthermore, we needed to ask God to help little V make good choices in the future, oh “and to make our friend’s head feel better!” K was very pleased with himself for making these observations and prayer requests on his brother’s behalf, who by the way was running around the room completely oblivious to prayer time. I asked K if there was anything he wanted to say sorry for but he of course indignantly refused!
I told this story to a few people over the last few days and laughed at K’s behavior every time. On one hand, I’m glad that he is listening to me and understanding the concepts we are trying to teach him about making good decisions and asking for forgiveness, but on the other hand, I can guarantee you that we have not had a night yet where he prayed either of these prayers for himself. It is much easier for him to identify the faults in his brother than to recognize that he might need to be forgiven from time to time as well.
During the month of March, the children will be learning about forgiveness. Our bottom line for this upcoming week is “Be careful not to judge others, because you’ve been wrong too.” It is a simple truth, but how often do we forget it! We all need to be forgiven for something. We all make mistakes. We all need a savior. And why we admit these things to each other in theory, how often do we admit this specifically?
I realized as I reflected on my son’s behavior that he was doing exactly what I had modeled for him. Each night, I ask him to admit his faults and ask for forgiveness, but do I ever share mine? No, I don’t. Sure he hears me apologize during the day for little things, but what he really needs is to hear me accept fault and pray about it before God. He needs a model that recognizes her imperfection and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable even in front of her children. Because if all I do is ask him to admit his faults but never show any of my own, I am a hypocrite and I am raising him to be a hypocrite as well. And that is a very sad reality because that is not what I want for my son. I don’t want him to think that faith is about pointing out the faults of others, while remaining blind to our own. Because that’s not what a relationship with Jesus is about. It was never meant to be rules or judgments but a way of life that is lived out personally before others each and every day. I can’t expect my 4 year old to do something I can’t do, and the same goes for friends, husbands, wives, and strangers. We need to model love, faith, humility, and forgiveness before we can expect it from others. So tonight we are going to try it. I am going to ask for forgiveness too, “Because I’ve been wrong too.”