I really wish Celeste Behe’s talk on Forgiveness for the Catholic Conference 4 Moms existed a long time ago. Before listening to her presentation, if a young mother came to me wondering how to teach her children how to forgive and how to be forgiven, I would be left scrambling for an answer with my mind blank for a more than a few minutes. However, Celeste makes it seem easy by presenting practical tips to help mothers teach even the youngest child about forgiveness.
Rooting a child in the true spirit of forgiveness is not about forcing a kid to say, “I’m sorry” when they really don’t mean it. Preaching to a sobbing child who has been hurt by a friend does not work either. So exactly how do we really form our kids so they understand, experience, and live out their Christian faith from their hearts?
Forgiveness is Central To Our Faith
As Celeste reminds us, “the concept of forgiveness is central to our faith.” Christians are those who have been forgiven by Christ, experience healing through confession, and forgive others as we have been forgiven. Unless we experience the reality of being forgiven by Christ for our own sins, we can’t teach our children how to forgive. We have to model how to forgive so our actions match our words. So obvious. So clear, just like the rest of her presentation.
The ability to forgive is a grace, a beautiful gift but it is not easy to practice. Celeste asks us, “How do we teach our children to forgive, to do the right thing when they have been wronged?” Her answer is direct and spot on: ” By reminding them of God’s mercy towards us, we can soften their hearts to be more willing to forgive.” The idea of softening children’s hearts first is so obvious, so essential, yet most of us would never consider trying to soften our kid’s hearts so they have the ability to forgive.
How Do We Teach Our Kids to Forgive?
Celeste amazed me by quoting To A Snowflake, a poem by Francis Thompson (the poet who wrote the famous The Hound of Heaven). She uses the example of a pure, beautiful snowflake created from either clean or dirty water to help children grasp the concept of sin and the transformational power of forgiveness. What a brilliant example to teach a complex concept. Step by step, Celeste shows mothers how to ask a series of questions and gives examples of children’s most common answers. Then she demonstrates how to help kids bridge the gap between snowflake metaphor and the reality of what happens spiritually when we are forgiven and forgive.
The rest of Celeste’s talk is just as inspiring, informative and easy to put into practice. She has insights about the many facets of forgiveness that I never even considered such as the need for practical restitution after a child as wronged another.
After you listen to Celeste’s presentation, ask yourself if she speaks to your experience of being forgiven. Will you use her example of how both clean and dirty water can be transformed into a pure, beautiful a snowflake to explain the reality of forgiven sin? Can you pass on her examples to your children? Can you forgive others even when you have been betrayed, wronged, treated unjustly? Is it something you’d like to do better?
When we forgive and ask to be forgiven by our children, our children will follow our example.
This is one of a series of 5 reflections on the Catholic Conference 4 Moms, an annual online conference hosted by CatholicMom contributor Tami Kiser. This year, the conference theme is “Pass It On: Equipping kids for the journey of faith”.Visit CatholicMosaic.com to sign up for the FREE 5-day conference a