In many ways, all our relationships hinge on forgiveness, including your relationship with your teenage son or daughter. The fact that forgiveness is needed in our relationships points to the fact that none of us is perfect—no, not even moms or dads. We will certainly fail each other and hurt one another, but at the end of the day, how we respond to one another’s failures determines how our relationships progress (or regress, as the case may be).
Now that your teenager barely resembles that chubby little toddler who would say “sorry,” with minimal cajoling, you probably need to rethink your perspectives regarding forgiveness. Start out by asking yourself these three questions.
Are you being honest about yourself?
If we understand the Gospel, we realize that God has been and is constantly gracious to all of us, as undeserving sinners. If we’re honest about our own sinful hearts, we realize that we have been treated with great mercy and grace: A debt (Matt 18:21-35) we could not pay has been paid for us, in Christ.
What if God only forgave us as readily as we forgive (Matt 6:12) our children? Would we desire that kind of treatment? Realizing our true sinfulness will help us foster a heart of forgiveness, and that’s the foundation on which healthy relationships are built.
Are you ready to forgive?
Imagine that your teen son or daughter came to you in tears, contrite and broken, asking your forgiveness.
While the momentary emotion would make saying, “Of course I forgive you,” easy, would you still struggle with wondering if they were sincere? What about when they commit the same “crime” later that day? Are you ready to un-forgive them, and remind them of their earlier offense?
The same God who says we should forgive far more than twice (Matt 18:21-22) has removed our sins from us (Psalm 103), buried them, never to dig them up again. Having a heart poised to forgive is hard, but it’s the kind of compassionate inclination that shows Christ’s love flowing through us to our kids.
Do you ever ask for forgiveness?
I’m not talking about a flippant, “Forgive me, but . . .” comment here or there: Do you ever truly repent of your wrongs toward others and ask them to forgive you?
Particularly, when was the last time you lost it or were unkind or lacked a gentle spirit as you dealt with your teenager? Did you ever ask God to forgive you for sinning against them? Did you ever ask them to forgive you?
If you’re not seeing the kind of compassion or success (Prov 28:13) in your relationship with your teenager, maybe that’s the reason. As you model the kind of humble repentance you want your teen to emulate, eventually, they may catch on. If they don’t see that kind of attitude in Mom and Dad, where will they see it?