We are so excited for the Christmas Season this year. I’m really going to try to make this year special. It will be my oldest sons last Christmas living at home since next year he will be in college or serving an LDS mission somewhere far away.
I want this year to be more spiritual than previous years and the LDS church is helping us do just that. I’m excited to be teaming up with the church this year to help bring some great ideas to families about serving others and acting as Jesus did while He was here on earth. This year the church is encouraging families to focus on the Life of Christ and show our love for Him 25 Ways in 25 Days.
I’ve been asked to help specifically with day 21. Jesus Forgave Others and So Can You. Forgiveness is so important in our lives. It determines our happiness and today I’m sharing with you a personal story of forgiveness along with a Family Home Evening Lesson you can share with your family to teach them about forgiveness.
I would love it if everyone shared about the Worldwide Day of Service on December 1st. How amazing would it be if everyone in the world made it a goal to serve others on the same day?
This Christmas Season let’s focus on the life of Christ and how He cared for, served and loved others while He was here. This year we can celebrate His birth by making the world a brighter place. If we all follow Him, His life, His example and His teachings we can #LIGHTtheWORLD. On the Mormon.org web site we are given examples and ideas on how we can be Christlike each day in December with something we can focus on. For example on day two we are encouraged to honor our parents, day 7 we can feed the hungry, etc.
So, let’s get started with our lesson on forgiveness. I hope someone, somewhere will read this and change their life for the better through forgiveness.
Jesus Christ showed compassion for those who loved Him—and even for those who didn’t. On the cross, Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him. We, too, can bring light into the world as we follow His example of forgiving others.
The Day I Learned what True Forgiveness Really Is . . .
I’ll give you a little of my back story. I come from a long line of stubborn people. People who don’t say sorry or forgive easily. People who are not very touchy feely. So when I met my second husband and his family, my eyes were opened to a whole other way to live. They are soft spoken and tender hearted. My husband likes to talk things through and I learned how important saying sorry and forgiving one another really is.
My first husband was different. We didn’t talk about anything. We just let things fester until we blew up and it lead to our divorce. I had really hard feelings towards him for years and years. Just before we split up he told me he didn’t love me. I was so hurt. I instantly reverted back to my childhood days when my self esteem was very, very low. How could he do this to me? How could he marry me without really knowing he loved me? How could he take two years of my life away from me? I let my hard feeling towards him fester and grow until I felt like I could never trust anyone ever again.
I met my current husband not long after I divorced my first husband and the relationship was much different. I’m sure I was very frustrating to him because I didn’t want to trust anyone ever again with my heart. He had been engaged a few years back and was feeling the same way I was. We worked through our problems with each other and we are strong together. We have 5 amazing children and have built a life together that I love.
But, of course, hurt feelings and resent in my heart never fully left me. I still was angry with my first husband. A few years after we split up, I found out he was getting married again. I prayed that he wouldn’t do the same thing to this wife. I pushed the hurt back down deep inside me. And went on with my life.
Another few years passed, and I was notified that he was getting married again. Because we had been sealed in an LDS temple, I had to write a letter about our marriage to his bishop explaining what happened in our marriage. Because he wanted to get sealed yet again in the temple, I was notified.
Those hurt feelings crept back up to the surface. I remember it vividly. I instantly felt like I wasn’t good enough. But not only was I feeling sorry for myself, I was angry too. I was angry that he had divorced someone else and he was moving on to hurt a third person.
It was a Sunday and we were getting ready for church. I got all the kids to church on time but it was a full house. We had to sit on the front row. I sat there. Angry and hurt. Asking God why he was allowing him to hurt so many. Feeling sorry for myself. I couldn’t see past my hurt. As I sat there, festering, my little daughter who was about 4 at the time looked up to me and said, “Mommy, you look so pretty today.” Oh, it melted my heart. It made me cry.
It brought me out of my self loathing. It opened my eyes and I saw my beautiful family sitting on the front row of the church. All healthy and happy. I had nothing to be sad about.
I also opened my ears to what the speakers were saying that day over the pulpit. They weren’t talking about forgiveness, but they were talking about the true love of Christ. They were teaching that He loves us unconditionally. He suffered for our sins so that we might have Joy in this life and continue to live with those we love in the next life.
I starting thinking about my ex-husband. And a thought came to me. “He loves him too.” What? Where did that come from? Why do I need to know that Christ loves my ex? Why did the Holy Ghost whisper that to my heart?
At that moment, my eyes were opened. I felt Christs unconditional and eternal love for my ex-husband. I felt compassion towards him. For a few moments of my life I felt what Christ feels for us. I could literally feel the warmth of love wash over my body. It started on top of my head and slowly worked it’s way to my toes. I had fully and completely forgiven him. It was over and I could let it go. It was a miracle in my life.
A few days later I had the opportunity to read a message from my ex-husband. He told me how his second wife cheated on him and he had already been married to his third wife for a few years. They had a son together and he wanted to be sealed to them for time and all eternity in the temple.
I was happy. I was done. It was over. I learned to truly forgive. A weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I said a prayer of thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father for helping me forgive. I don’t even think my ex-husband had ever said he was sorry for anything. I didn’t need him to say sorry for me to forgive him. Forgiveness is something that we must do on our own, sometimes in spite of how the other person is acting.
Side note: How funny is it that as I’m sitting here writing this my friend sends this to me on Facebook? . . . “Hey lady, Sorry…had to do it. I Nominate you for the Most loving and prettiest Mom Award. You must send to 15 moms and make their day. I’m also waiting! Sometimes u just need to hear it … You’re a beautiful mom, doing a great job and you’re so loved!” How’s that for listening to the spirit?
So, how do we teach our children to forgive? How do we teach them the true love of Christ?
Through our own stories. Through our example. If our children see us forgiving, they will forgive. If our children see us holding grudges and gossiping, they will hold grudges and gossip. We must teach our children through example. So I’ve gathered some of the best examples of forgiveness that I could find and put them together for you. This would be a great lesson for Family Home Evening. Make sure the whole family is together and talk about forgiveness.
Teaching Our Kids How to Forgive:
1. Gather the family together and say a prayer to bring the spirit into your home.
2. Ask the kids if they have ever had anyone make them mad, or if anyone had hurt them. Give them time to think about this for a while. Have them write down their thoughts or even just the name of someone who has hurt them. With your older children ask them the following questions from Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
Do you secretly envy another?
Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
Have the kids ponder these questions as you move onto step 3.
3. Tell the kids an appropriate story about your life when someone hurt you.
4. Ask the kids “What do we need to do if we hurt someone?” (Say we are sorry and repent) then ask “What do we need to do when someone hurts us?” (forgive)
5. Show the family this video about a father who’s family was hit by a drunk driver and talk about how the father forgave the drunk driver. (this would be appropriate for teens)
If that video is too intense for little ones, show this video:
6. Have a conversation with your kids about the people they wrote about on their paper and help them talk through the forgiveness process.
7. Now, talk to the kids about a time when they might have hurt someone. Ask them if they said they were sorry to the person that they hurt.
8. Ask them if they have ever thought about forgiving themselves for doing something wrong. Then read these steps to forgiving yourself from mormon.org.
Don’t ignore your faults or stop trying to improve, but do try to value yourself and recognize that you’re a good person, faults and all.
-FORGIVE AND FORGET
You learn by your experiences, including your mistakes. Don’t forget what experiences make you who you are, but do forget the resentment and negativity that often accompanies bad choices.
-BE REALISTIC IN YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS
All human beings are imperfect, including you. Embrace your imperfections and don’t be too hard on yourself for them.
-LET GO OF THINGS YOU CAN’T CONTROL
You have no control over what other people do and say to you, but you can control your reactions. Follow your own righteous purposes and stop living your life to simply please those around you.
Forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. You will continually make mistakes. But because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness for our sins through sincere and complete repentance. The Lord’s forgiveness brings relief, comfort, and joy.
9. Share the following quotes with your family:
“The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The magnitude of that Atonement is beyond our ability to completely understand. I know only that it happened, and that it was for me and for you. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can comprehend it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind. It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life. May God help us to be a little kinder, showing forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, more willing to walk the second mile, to reach down and lift up those who may have sinned but have brought forth the fruits of repentance, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more.” Gordon B. Hinckley
“All that is of God encompasses love, light, and truth. Yet as human beings we live in a fallen world, sometimes full of darkness and confusion. It comes as no surprise that mistakes will be made, injustices will occur, and sins will be committed. As a result, there is not a soul alive who will not, at one time or another, be the victim to someone else’s careless actions, hurtful conduct, or even sinful behavior. That is one thing we all have in common. Gratefully, God, in His love and mercy for His children, has prepared a way to help us navigate these sometimes turbulent experiences of life. He has provided an escape for all who fall victim to the misdeeds of others. He has taught us that we can forgive! Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!” Kevin R. Duncan
10. Make cookies together as a family. Give each of the children a cookie to give to a friend or school mate that needs their forgiveness or love.
11. Print out the handouts with the quote from Gordon B. Hinckley and ask your children to display them somewhere where they can be seen often. Like the bathroom mirror or the door going out of the house.
You can download the print by clicking on the image below and open it in a new window. Then right click and choose “save image as” and save it to your computer. Now you can open the image and print it from home. There are 4 to a page and they print on an 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Cardstock would be best.
For younger kids you can tell the story of Joseph and how he forgave his brothers. You can then print this coloring page for the kids to color as an activity.
I hope that this message inspires you to forgive. Not only someone who may have hurt you, but to forgive yourself also. Don’t carry that burden around with you any more. Let it go and let the pure love of Christ wash over you, like it did me.