Teaching forgiveness

Last evening we spoke to the parents of first Reconciliation children at Saint Bridget Church in Framingham, Massachusetts. Our topic was teaching forgiveness.

We focused on a few key themes that are helpful for both parents and children.

  1. Like any habit we wish to cultivate, it takes practice. We must practice forgiveness in the home by teaching children specific language and behavior.
  2. It is good to connect these habits and behavior to the story of the Church, by practicing the sacrament of reconciliation.
  3. The sacrament is rooted in good psychology: we must name our sins in order to grow.
  4. Our culture has lost the language of sin, as David Brooks insightfully points out in his book The Road to Character. We need it in order to remind ourselves that our lives ultimately find meaning in love, and that love is what Michael Himes calls “the least wrong way to talk about God.”
  5. Ultimately, practicing forgiveness is about finding spiritual freedom: that is, the freedom to be the person God has created us to be, unhindered by desires that trap us in patterns of uncreativity or addiction.
  6. It is important for parents to teach children that the words “I forgive you” are different from “that’s OK” or “don’t worry about it.” To forgive is to name something as wrong, but also to say that my love for you is greater than the wrong thing you did.
  7. Our lessons about God are the same: God’s love is always greater than the worst things we do. Practicing forgiveness at home is the training ground for their future relationship with a loving God.

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