“Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” James 3:10
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Let’s face it folks, one of the trickiest things in parenting is teaching our kids appropriate use of their tongues as far as words that come out of our mouths. A few years ago, I attended a gathering where many young moms were present. Our children loved these gatherings because there were so many kids their age in attendance and so much comradery and good enthusiastic playing took place. But, as with children anywhere, negative play and occurrences took place. Children are mean sometimes, are they not?
This particular time a few of the boys got into a squabble. There were some mean words said and a physical fight ensued.
Moms scrambled to protect and make peace. Several boys saw the error of their ways quickly and sorries were said and amends made. One little lad, however, who we perceived as perhaps one of the instigators, refused to say sorry.
What occurred next was an eye opener for me and grieved my heart. This mom proceeded in every way she could, from gently coaxing to severe punishments for not the crime, but for not saying sorry. The young man refused. Anything she did or said could not coax him to say those words. What was all going on in his little 5 or 6-year-old head? I could not see but a few things went on in my head! This young man could have said sorry and been set free instantly! The words would have freed him to go and play! But what was in his heart and mind? He was not sorry, that is for sure and neither was his mom going to make him do something he didn’t have in his heart!
Saying sorry for his crime would have built up the relationship with all of his little friends! It would have been a blessing, not a curse and at certain points the other little boys stood around waiting for him to say those magic words so he could come and play. It occurred to me that this young man was not sorry! For what ever reason, he did not think he had done anything wrong or didn’t want to admit it, or was maybe even glad he had committed the crime?
On that day I realized that forcing my children to say sorry, good words, would not teach them to be repentant. I also began to explore the idea that I could never force them to say words that build up their friends or siblings. Furthermore, suggesting to compliment people was a farce if it didn’t come from the heart.
As parents there are things at stake in these moments. What would hurt my child more? Making them say sorry when they weren’t, or letting them go play again without saying sorry, or worst-case scenario, do I take my child home prematurely? Or would I take my child aside and teach them about repentance?
And do I value my reputation more than my child’s and my child saying sorry saves my face but does nothing to correct the child’s behavior from his/her heart?
I would encourage you to read the whole chapter that surrounds the verse in James and the one in Ephesians. Do you see how the James observation and Paul’s command in Ephesians come in the context of heart matters? What are some of the possible reasons any of us my not be able to say the powerful words of “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive,” you for that matter. Encouraging your child to figure out if they are angry, or jealous or hurt because someone said something mean to them, or maybe they are too proud to say sorry, or selfishness rules their heart at this moment. Asking ourselves these questions enables us to begin to get to the heart matters. In the end God’s invitation to a relationship with him, is always about the heart, isn’t it? We can’t change the heart from the outside in, always God wants to change our heart so that we can freely behave in a manner worthy of our calling; changing the heart and not just behavior.
This week, have a chat with your child about words. Do it incidentally if you can. I would encourage you to ask them why we say: “I’m sorry.” Talk about repentance and that what is in your heart matters. What would a conversation like this look like with a child, a tween, a teenager, or maybe even with your spouse?
So, ground yourself in the word to give a good answer, to know when you child is ready for more truth around this idea of forgiveness and repentance and how the good words of reconciliation- I’m sorry and I forgive you- change our behavior from the heart.
Below I have listed some verses that are helpful to begin this journey of following Jesus with our heart so that our words are authentic and meaningful. This is not by any means an exhaustive list. Be a student of God’s word. Other passages may be clearer for you. This is a start.
II Timothy 2: 22-26, I Timothy 2:1-4, Romans 2:1-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Eph 4:1-3, Phil. 1:9-11, Col 3:5-10, 2 Cor 5:16-21.
The book of Proverbs speaks many times about the connection between the heart and what comes out of your mouth and the effect of your tongue. The discussions around the principals found in the wise saying book are great ways to start conversations with your kids. Praying for good conversations with your kids this week.