Let’s Talk About … Forgiveness
One easy way to use Take Out in your adult faith formation ministry is to offer a monthly series for parents to gather in small faith communities and discuss one article from each months’ issue. Adults today are often searching for ways to connect with other people who share common values, are at the similar place in life, and, of course, share the same faith beliefs.
Why not let Take Out be your guide to a Fall Family Night? Invite parents and kids to come together and talk about Joseph White’s article in the October issue on Forgiveness. We often talk about bullying and other issues at school, but sometimes we forget to include the Christian understanding of forgiveness.
Reserve a room in your parish that is large enough to accommodate 25-50 people. Set up tables with 5-7 chairs at each. Having people sit at tables is an easy way to divide them into small groups. (You can keep parents with their kids or divide the kids off into a separate group for their own discussion. Ask your parish’s youth minister if he or she would facilitate that event.) Several sets of the discussion questions should be in the middle of each table along with a few copies of that month’s Take Out magazine.
Refreshments are always welcome and need not be fancy or time-consuming to display. Decaf coffee and cookies are usually a welcome after-dinner treat.
7:00 p.m. Opening Prayer and Greeting
7:05 p.m. Brief overview of the article to be discussed
7:15 p.m. Refer participants to discussion questions on each table and begin small group discussion (Make sure participants understand that the questions are a beginning for their discussion – they can discuss one of them or all of them. Remember to make room for the movement of the Spirit in these discussions that may take a group in a new or unexpected direction.)
8:00 p.m. Break for refreshments
8:10 p.m. Come together as a large group and discuss article (write important thoughts and contributions on a white board or flip chart). If you’ve separated into two groups, bring the two back together and share responses.
8:30 p.m. Close with prayer or scripture reading (see optional closing prayer at the end of this article)
Forgiveness--It's a family affair by Joseph D. White, Ph.D., page 4.
Forgiveness is vital to the Christian life, and there is no more important place to practice forgiveness than in the family. Why? Because the family is the school of charity — it is where we first learn to love others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the family “the domestic church” (No. 1666): the place where the Christian community is formed.
Forgiveness is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. He says that if we forgive others, God will also forgive us (see Mt 6:14-15). He puts no limits on this, commanding us to forgive seventy times seven times (see Mt 18:21-22, RSV).
Hurts do occur in families — even healthy ones. The most common causes of conflict between spouses include disagreements over finances, problems in the area of sexuality or intimacy, and conflicts over rules and limits with children. Parent-child conflict may center on chores, homework, schedule or time pressures, wants versus needs, and differing ideas about what limits and freedoms are appropriate. Sibling conflict often centers on shared space, taking turns with shared possessions, and teasing that turns ugly.
An Ounce of Prevention
Of course, the best way to manage such conflict is to prevent as much as possible in the first place. In doing so, we can shorten the list of offenses to forgive. For spouses, this means being proactive about budgeting and sticking to an agreed-upon family budget, being open about intimacy needs, and taking time to be with one another.
For parents and kids, minimizing conflict means paying attention to the quality of the parent-child relationship — that is, are we spending enough time building a relationship in a positive way, or have we made parent-child interactions more about setting rules and policing? Invest in the parent-child relationship by taking some low-key time to do something together that the child enjoys. Also, be consistent about limits and make sure consequences are directly related to the offenses, rather than imposed, contrived punishments that can make a child resentful.
Sibling conflict can be reduced and prevented through organized turn-taking — for example, using a timer to determine when it’s time to take turns on the computer. Parents can act as “coaches” or interpreters in conversations about conflicts between siblings. Instead of solving the problem yourself, act as an intermediary. Ask each child to express his or her feelings to the other and to generate possible solutions. Quality individual time with each child that capitalizes on the child’s unique interests can help temper feelings of sibling rivalry.
When Hurts Do Occur
While we can minimize family conflict, we can’t eliminate it. Hurts will occur; this is the nature of human relationships. When this happens, recognizing and using some basic steps toward reconciliation can be helpful. For those who have been hurt, recalling and expressing the hurt is the first step toward reconciliation. Some infractions are small enough that we can brush them aside and forget about them. But anything that is important enough to remember is important enough to talk about. Otherwise, we may later be dealing with a long list of grudges instead of just one issue.
Second, it’s important that we try to imagine ourselves in the other person’s shoes and determine why he or she might have acted in a hurtful way. What made this person feel like it was OK to say or do this? If we don’t know, we may need to ask. Third, make a decision to work toward reconciliation. Fourth, offer forgiveness. That doesn’t mean all is forgotten, but it says you are willing to work toward trust again.
When we recognize that we have been hurtful, there are some important steps we can take toward reconciliation. First, think through the situation carefully, and try to imagine what it must have been like for the other person. How did he or she interpret our actions, and how did that feel? Seeking reconciliation means making yourself vulnerable and admitting you were wrong, even if you feel the other person didn’t handle it well either. Tell the other person what you now understand about how they felt, and make a commitment to avoid being hurtful in the future. Finally, realize that forgiveness is a choice, but trust is not. While the other person may forgive you, it may take some time for trust to be re-established. Be patient with this process.
Be sure to model forgiveness for your children — both inside and outside the home. Let them see you working things out with others. While it generally isn’t good for kids to be exposed to all the emotion and adult issues inherent in parental conflict, parents who never have any conflict in front of their children may actually be doing them a disservice, because the children miss important examples to effective problem solving (and they may also grow up to think that a good relationship means never arguing at all). Don’t argue in front of your kids about rules for their behavior, adult issues or very emotional issues that are likely to lead to a heated exchange, but with smaller issues, to let them see you express different points of view and arrive at a compromise.
Practice “penance” in the home. When hurts have occurred between family members, encourage them to do something to help repair the relationship. For example, the big brother who let playful teasing progress to bullying may be required to do something extra nice for the sibling he offended.
Eat meals together as a family, on a regular basis and free from other distractions, like television. Research has shown that families who eat together around a table regularly communicate better, and have less conflict.
Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a family, going to the church together. It’s important for kids to see that their parents also need God’s forgiveness, and receiving the sacrament allows us to partake of God’s grace as we build a home of love and reconciliation.
1. Why is it so difficult to admit our own wrongs and say, “I’m sorry?”
2. What did Jesus teach us about forgiveness and reconciliation?
3. How often does your family talk about grudges – present and past? Might this help toward long-term reconciliation?
4. Do you agree with Dr. White’s comment that “forgiveness is a choice but trust is not?” Why or why not? How do we earn trust?
5. As parents, how can we “model forgiveness to our children?”
(post these on a bathroom mirror for inspiration)
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.
God made the sun,
And God made the trees,
God made the mountains,
And God made me.
Thank you O God,
For the sun and the trees,
For making the mountains,
And for making me.
Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest.
God is nigh.
As I turn off the light,
please be with me.
Help me to get to sleep
and give me good dreams.
Thank you for my friends
and for the games and fun we share.
Please help me to be a good friend to them.
Help me to notice people who need my help.
Children who are alone without friends or
my parents and teachers
when they need a hand.
Please help me at school.
Sometimes I find it hard,
and it’s at those times that I need you most.
Take Out helps you bring home the Sunday Gospels. Use the capsules and questions to discuss the Gospel readings at home.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 5: Matthew 21: 33-43
Jesus tells a parable, using the image of a vineyard, reminding us that we all have been entrusted with the care of the Kingdom. We are needed by God in this vineyard, as good workers, good gardeners.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 12: Matthew 22: 1-14
Jesus tells a parable about the invitation by a king to the wedding banquet of his son. The invited guests refuse the invitation and cruelly reject the king’s messengers. This parable has many meanings. Jesus once again tells us about the Kingdom of God: all are generously invited.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 19: Matthew 22: 15-21
Some people who didn’t like Jesus tried to trick him by asking if God’s people should obey Caesar’s rules: should pay taxes to Caesar who was not a Christian ruler. Jesus tells the people that if they use Caesar’s money, they need to pay for it. Most importantly, then, Jesus reminds them to give to God what belongs to God.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 26: Matthew 22: 34-40
A lawyer asked Jesus a question (to see if he really knew the law): “which commandment of the law is the greatest?” Jesus put the whole law into one by saying we are to love God above all. But he immediately added a second part: “and love your neighbor as yourself.” The people listening knew both these commandments but they had never been joined together as one before.
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs