Whew...it's been a while. A few nasty colds and out-of-town guests later (the colds were nasty--not the guests!), we are settling back into a normal routine. It feels good to fall back into some familiar rhythms and be able to enjoy getting out of the house. As much as I am a winter chick, I join the hordes of Midwesterners wishing fervently for spring to make its welcome appearance. I can just envision the first tiny green buds popping out on the branches outside our windows. A couple of days ago I was delighted to see the tulips pushing up and reaching into the fresh air. Beyond that, I am already anticipating loading my son up with our beach gear in a wagon and walking across the street to soak in the waves and the sand on the shores of Lake Michigan. Ahhh. Can't wait.
But today, although it's warmer than many winter days, we are still not quite ready for the spring and summer activities coming soon. So my son and I were out playing with other moms and kids in an indoor area. My son, as toddlers are prone to do, was becoming too rough in his play with another child. As I observed what was happening, I scooted over to intervene. After talking with him, I directed him to apologize to the other child. He was not in favor of this idea and made it known! Fast forward. As I finished interacting with him, I overheard another individual commenting that she hated it when her parents made her apologize when she wasn't truly sorry. The overall gist of her opinion was that we're just teaching kids to lie when we tell them to apologize if they really don't feel sorry.
Now I must confess that my insecure side immediately flared up and I felt hurt and defensive that (in my opinion) my parenting was being criticized. However, trying to get past that muck, I did reflect on the other parent's comments. After thinking about how I handled the situation, I concluded that I wouldn't change my desire to have my son apologize. Am I teaching him to lie and be angry with me for expecting him to say or do something that he doesn't feel in that moment?
I fully anticipate that he will be unhappy with some of my expectations, especially in the heat of the moment. That's just going to be reality for many years to come. But teaching him to lie? The incident made me recall a discussion I had recently, in which someone pointed out that emotion often follows theology, and emotion will catch up later. Maybe in a moment when we are struggling with negative emotions, we won't feel like apologizing when we've wronged or in some way offended others. The theology I believe shapes my actions (I try, anyway!) and I recognize that in order to make a conciliatory gesture to "right my wrong," I need to say those words...even when I don't feel very sorry. Besides, learning to say "I'm sorry" can be incredibly powerful in relationships. I'm sorry can melt icy silences. I'm sorry can open the doors to conversation when anger blocks the lines of communication. I'm sorry demonstrates an attitude of grace, forgiveness, and humility as Christ modeled for us. I'm not suggesting this be done in a doormat mindset that leaves no room for healthy boundaries. However, there are many times when we've done something intentionally or inadvertently to offend, and the apology extended can be instrumental in repairing either a small crack or large fissure in a broken relational bridge. Furthermore, the more we practice our theology, the more our emotions will run parallel to the theology we're living out. As behavioral patterns form and our minds are transformed (Romans 12:2), we will have more discernment to recognize what is true and right, act on it, and our feelings may gradually be more in tune. Of course there will always be times that we don't feel like making the right choice, but when we do it anyway we increase in this little bit of growth I like to call building character.
My son is not old enough to have this discussion, so for now he will be expected to apologize when he hurts others. Hopefully as the years pass we can talk more about why we apologize so he can at least have an early understanding that we apologize not in a deceitful attempt to patch things up but to genuinely demonstrate love, kindness, and a little healthy humility.
Now after all of those thoughts...do you think I can remember this during the next disagreement my husband and I have with each other?
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31