Dear parent who made a mistake,
There’s been something on my mind lately that I’d like to share with you.
I don’t know how “big” or “small” the mistake was. I don’t know how deep the roots go on the issue. We could be talking about raising your voice when you shouldn’t have. Or an anger problem. Or weighing down your family with unrealistic expectations. Or a gambling problem. Or passive aggression. Or an addiction. Or an affair.
No matter what the mistake is, can I tell you one thing I know? Your response to your mistake is the determining factor of whether or not the damaged relationship can be healed.
Just recently, Mark and I had two coaching calls with young people in their twenties whose parents made mistakes. These were shake-the-foundation-of-a-family mistakes.
Here’s what stood out to me: One of these parents responded to their mistake with humility and the other responded to their mistake with defensiveness.
In my conversation with the person whose parent responded humbly, we talked about healing, reconnection, and growth.
In my conversation with the person whose parent responded with pride and defensiveness, we talked about hurt, anger, and the mountain of forgiveness.
Those are two very different conversations.
You see, when something goes wrong, your response is everything. You hold the power in your hands to try to bring healing and recover the most important relationships in your life. If you don’t respond humbly, your family can’t heal. If you respond with defensiveness, you deepen the pain they’re already experiencing.
Colossians 3:12 tells us, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Even after a mistake, this is how we should live and respond: with humility and patience.
How are you responding?
If you are a parent who made a mistake, I’d like to share a few steps you can take to respond in humility:
1) Do a 180.
Turn from the behavior. Calm down. Change your expectations. Turn away from the second relationship. Do a complete 180. Don’t flirt on the edge; turn away. If you need help to do that, ask for it. Trust is rebuilt through changed behavior over time. If you’re not changing the behavior, you will not rebuild trust.
2) Apologize and listen.
A full apology looks like this:
“I’m sorry for _______________. (be specific). I know it hurt you in this way _____________________________. Will you forgive me?”
You may not get forgiveness right away and that’s okay. Don’t just assume forgiveness or sweep the situation under the rug. Apologize and listen intently, without getting defensive, to what the person you wronged has to say. Also remember that their forgiveness does not restore trust. You will have to rebuild their trust by consistent changed behavior over time.
3) Get right with God.
Real, lasting change doesn’t happen on our own. It happens through a daily walk with Jesus. A real walk with Him.
The times we feel like we are at our lowest are often the times we drift furthest from God. But He wants to lead you through the mess. Through the mistake, and towards healing.
4) Move forward with grace and patience.
In our dark season, after Mark’s affair, there would be many times something would trigger the pain even after forgiveness was offered. We had to take time to rebuild trust. And Mark had to offer me grace when I was reminded of his mistake, and he needed to be patient as we rebuilt our relationship.
The same thing is true for you, in whatever relationship was harmed.
Things don’t just go back to normal. They take time.
Offer another apology. Give grace. Be patient.
My friend, your response is everything. Please please please respond with humility instead of defensiveness. This is the only path that has the chance of leading to healing and redemption.
Need to talk? Mark or I would be honored to connect with you and talk about how you can move forward. We both do individual coaching sessions. You can learn more here.
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