I recently heard this quote:
"It is not so important to focus on teaching your children about doing the right thing or the wrong thing, but to teach them how to repent well."
Who is this "Adam", you might be asking. He is a legend in our community. A man known for being utterly wise and for living out his Christian faith in the most authentic manner. He is also one of my husband's dearest friends and they have regularly coffee dates where they connect and chat about life. Drew is always coming home with morsels like this one. Everyone should have an Adam in their life.
But, this quote has me thinking quite a bit lately. I think I agree. And, I think I don't do this well. I am really good at telling my kids when they are doing the wrong thing, and then making suggestions for better choices. I am "just okay" at acknowledging that they have done the right thing. I am trying to be better about praising positive behavior, but I tend to have eyes that are magnets for noticing the negative behavior. But, when I think about this concept - "teaching our kids to repent well" - I cannot help but think that we would have a dramatically different culture if it were made up of people who did this regularly.
Webster defines "repent" as:
1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. (often fol. by of): He repented after his thoughtless act.
2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better; be penitent.
3. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one's injustice to another.
4. to feel sorry for; regret: to repent an imprudent act.
So, I gather that the heart of repentence is taking responsibility and feeling sorry or regret for how we have hurt another. It forces us to have empathy for the people around us - to connect with their hurts and how we have contributed to them. It takes the eyes off ourselves, and puts them on others. It causes us to see how our actions are impacting others - to own that - and then to strive to make different choices in the future.
I look at what is going on in our country right now - in both the economy and in politics. I am seeing a whole lot of pointing, blaming, and spinning. Not a whole lot of acceptance of bad choices or considering how those choices have impacted others. It is pretty amazing how quickly saying, "I am sorry. I know that hurt you and made you feel belittled" can end a fight in my home.
So, this is one of my new challenges in my role as a parent, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend & human - to model repentence well for my kids and to learn how to repent well. Believe me, there will be plenty of opportunities for me to do that.