It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven, doesn’t it? (from Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)
You can expect quite a few Anne quotes this month because fall just puts me in an Anne-ish mood.
I thought of this one today because this week at our house has been all about apologies and forgiveness. We have our most important family rules posted on a wall where we see them often. The family rules are for all of us, not just the children. The one that I am most often guilty of breaking is “Answer gently.”
A couple of days ago my son left the bathroom door open and our 17-month-old got in there and emptied the contents of the diaper pail all over the floor and tub. It was disgusting. I lost it.
Not only did I not speak gently, I actually screamed at my son for leaving that door open. Screamed. I was scary. And I had to apologize to this four-year-old for my extreme overreaction, for showing him such anger. We both cried a lot and there was lots of cuddling. While I scrubbed the bathroom with bleach, my husband fed the kids dinner and I just cried and prayed my son wouldn’t remember me that way. I prayed he would not learn this from me instead of all the good things I have tried to teach him. And I told myself that this one episode would likely make a much bigger impression than many months of kindness. I texted a wise friend because I needed another mama to pray for me and I knew I could trust her. She told me to remember that showing humility to our kids when we apologize is also teaching them a great deal. And I thanked God for the extreme grace of that truth. Benjamin forgave me and my friend helped me forgive myself.
This morning I went to take a shower and I reminded Benjamin to keep the bathroom doors closed, that mommy was going to be in the shower for about 10 minutes and he needed to be very sure that June couldn’t get into any bathrooms. While I was in there he knocked on the door and asked if he could get something from the pantry. I answered through the door to please wait and make sure the outer bathroom door was closed. He didn’t. When I came out a few minutes later the outer door was open and I could tell June had opened a drawer but it didn’t look like she had gotten anything out. About two hours later we were cleaning up for lunch and I picked up a towel from the living room floor and saw a jolly roger drawn in red lipstick on the cream colored carpet. This was not June. She doesn’t know how to draw jolly rogers. I was absolutely beyond angry but I kept my cool. We talked and I scrubbed (which didn’t work). He lost privileges (all of his pirate toys are locked up in the shed now) and he apologized and admitted that he knew it was wrong when he did it. And it was my turn to forgive him. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find forgiveness in your heart for a four-year-old but we have lived here for only three weeks and it’s RED lipstick on CREAM carpet. Seriously. And I wasn’t completely convinced that he felt the full weight of what he had done. He just didn’t seem as contrite as he should have been. But the level of his contrition is not relevant because forgiveness isn’t something you earn. It is gifted, not earned. It is grace.
To apologize and be forgiven is lovely to the soul and to freely forgive is as well. Someday I believe he will cringe and laugh as I remind him of this red jolly roger, cream carpet incident and maybe by then I will be ready to laugh about it too.