She broke the rules. Snuck a cookie. Hid it behind her back, ran into the other room, chewed it up in two bites and then walked back into the living room, unaware that crumbs stuck on her mouth betrayed her secret snack.
I asked her if she’d taken a cookie from the cooling rack.
With only the confidence a toddler could have, she proudly declared, “No, Mom!” the chocolate chips still covering her teeth.
I stifled my laughter, realizing this was a moment I couldn’t squander.
I’d caught her in a lie. She’d defied my instructions. And how I responded could perhaps make or break future moments she’d perhaps be tempted to be dishonest.
“Rose, it’s very important you tell me the truth. Did you take a cookie?”
Her little face turned bright red. She knew she’d been caught, and in the 10 seconds of silence that transpired I could see the wheels turning in her head.
“Mom … I …”
I waited patiently.
“Mom … I … took …”
It was taking ages to get an answer.
“Mom … ItookthecookiebecauseIwashungry, but … do you forgive me?”
She blurted out her transgression, but quickly followed up with the big ask.
Did I forgive her?
We’d talked about it quite often. Forgiveness. The idea that we accept someone’s apology and believe them when they say they’ll commit to doing better next time. The practice of still loving another, even when they haven’t loved us well.
“Yes, I forgive you, baby.” And she came over for a hug.
And then our conversation about honesty, and not sneaking cookies off the cooling rack, commenced. But only after we established that I did, in fact, forgive her.
I’m no parenting or marriage or family life expert. My eldest child is only 3. Her sister is less than a year old.
We’ve been married five years, though it certainly sometimes feels like longer. We have our fair share of challenges and struggles, stolen cookies at the bottom of the list, but it gives us more than a few opportunities to ask forgiveness of one another. And it’s a phrase we aren’t afraid to use.
It’s something my husband and I learned early, this need to be forgiving. It’s not a carefree thing, to just say “Oh, I forgive you,” but a real attempt at reconciliation, in pursuit of avoiding resentment. When words are curt, hurtful phrases tossed around, slights given, forgiveness is sought, given, and those wounds are healed.
What could be more important in a family than the desire to reconcile and the hope to move beyond? What could be more necessary to grow in holiness than the embrace of an attitude that says, “I will love this person and forgive them, because I know they forgive me”?
A family steeped in forgiveness is not lazy, nor does a family embracing forgiveness overlook substantial problems. Forgiveness does not equal ignoring transgressions. Forgiveness simply proclaims, “You are not only this bad thing you have done, nor are you stuck in this moment of failure. We can move beyond. We can resolve to do better. We can heal, together.”
What would this world look like if we led with forgiveness? It wouldn’t mean we ignore the wrongs, but rather embrace an attitude of “Mercy and forgiveness is available to anyone, from anywhere, having done anything.”
Is that not what Jesus proclaimed from the cross? “Father, forgive them …”
And yet we are quick to condemn, cancel, reject and remove.
Starting in our families, with even a spouse or child, sibling or parent, the words, “Do you forgive me?” become not just a simple request, but can become a transforming mindset: Yes.
Yes I can. We can work through this, move past this, and grow together. Yes, I forgive you.
Is that not what we would want someone to say to us? Is it not what we are called to give to another? To look at the cross, hear that we are forgiven and then give the same to those we love most.
“Father, forgive them …”
“Mom, do you forgive me?”
“Yes, honey. I can. Just as I know you will also forgive me.”
Katie Prejean McGrady is a Catholic speaker, award-winning author and host of The Katie McGrady Show on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. She lives in Louisiana with her family.