encouragement,  Motherhood

Withholding Forgiveness

By Allison Hull


I’m sort of a free-range mom. I let my kids play outside in the front yard. And in the street of our cul-de-sac.

Drives some of my family insane that I’d let them ride their bikes around our house without me watching them. But both they and I need the space to run free. The neighborhood kids from the block do the same. They all meet in the street to play, joke and chase each other around. And during this time at least once if not three times a day one of my kids comes in crying. I can handle it if it was because of a bruise or a scrape but they come in crying for a different reason. At least once a day my kids do something to warrant an apology. And every single time the other kids do not forgive them.
In a house with multiple children, I’ve come to find it’s easiest if I teach them they must forgive right away. Withholding forgiveness is not an option with your brothers. If your brother comes to you and says he’s sorry, you are to right away offer the sweet words of forgiveness. Now, one brother might not say he’s sorry with sincerity but that doesn’t mean that you can’t forgive them with sincerity.

I also make them give hugs to each other. I’ve seen from many moms that they don’t agree with any of those actions. Don’t MAKE it happen, just let them do it on their own. And yet, we are sinners who would never come up with it of our own free will. We become embarrassed about asking for forgiveness, or afraid we won’t be forgiven. Afraid that the apology will be waived in front of us from then on, or just plain scared of the reaction from the other person.

Repentance and forgiveness are two very hard concepts and those without faith don’t really see a need to instill this in their kids or themselves. So, kids learn they don’t have to forgives or even ask for forgiveness. Our neighbors told my sons they should SHOW they have changed before they’ll forgive them. Which makes my sons cry all the more. Because like good Lutherans, they know even if they try their hardest they will still fall to temptation and need forgiveness again soon.

But today’s Christians have lost the art of forgiveness. We just aren’t doing it anymore.

Instead we push for this new man to rise up, showing we aren’t in need of forgiveness, we can have our best life now. We forget that that we are both saint and sinner and love to dwell on that saint stuff. Thankfully, we can’t earn our salvation by doing anything, it’s all done for us and through us by Christ. Even your forgiveness isn’t you doing it, but Christ IN you.
So, I stress to my children that even though other kids might not forgive them, even if I forget to forgive them, CHRIST always forgives them right away. There’s no waiting, no thinking about it, no pausing for them to change and try to do better.

Because of that fact, they can rely on Christ and His promise. They can know that in Christ, this new creation can forgive others just as He forgave them.

The emphasis on Christ forgiving right away is key to their feelings of relief and well-being. This is especially important for children because they tend to internalize the pain of being unforgiven and feel it more vividly. Or maybe I’ve become accustomed to not being forgiven. Maybe as adults we come to expect that others just won’t forgive us and we are calloused from it. I don’t cry when someone doesn’t forgive me, but then again, I don’t usually ask for forgiveness as often as I should.

So, maybe, we should be stressing this with adults as well as children. Repent, forgive, repent, forgive, rinse and repeat. That should be our daily life as a Christian. That’s what we should be showing to others and especially our children. I’m glad my children have taught me once again what it’s like to live as a baptized member in Christ and I’m hoping they show that to other children who haven’t heard the sweet relief of His forgiveness like mine have.

Photo credit to Medialab PradoSome rights reserved.


  • Katy

    Thank you. Great reminder. It’s our privilege to forgive because that forgiveness is simply an extension of, gets its supply from, Christ’s forgiveness

  • Robert

    “Even your forgiveness isn’t you doing it, but Christ IN you.”

    This is false doctrine.

    While Christ is In us, willing and enabling us to do good works, including forgiving others, we DO INDEED do good works ourselves, according to the new nature.

    In fact, we will be judged on the basis of our good works on the Last Day. Those done in faith will be rewarded, while evil works or works done without faith will be consumed in fire.

    The above error, which persistently appears in “confessional” Lutheran circles, is one that denies that Christians, according to the new nature, actually and in faith obey the law of God.

    This error is part and parcel of neo-Lutheranism, the late 19th- and early 20th-century post-Kantian, European version of Lutheranism, which is not the same as Orthodox Lutheranism, which affirms the third use of the law.

    Again, Christians DO INDEED forgive others, just as Christ forgave them, and indeed all sinners.

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