We had to deal with a really challenging thing this past week.
One of our kids got himself into some trouble at school, and had to deal with some serious consequences. Even though we had dished some consequences out at home, he also had to face the natural consequences that the school felt necessary to impose on him.
While we felt these consequences were quite severe, and felt that the consequences were primarily being severely imposed to appease someone else, (as opposed to just teaching our child a lesson), he had to face them nonetheless and there was nothing we could do for him. This in itself taught him a lesson that we can’t always foresee what the consequences to our actions will be, but we have to deal with them regardless of what they are.
The one thing that kept resonating in my mind though, was as much as my son had been in the wrong, and had to take responsibility, he is a good kid. I kept hearing in my head, and wanting to say to the school administrators and other adults involved: “If you could only see what I see. He is a kind kid, a good kid, who made a bad choice. Please don’t label him for his mistakes, please be forgiving, please have compassion”.
Every 6 months our church has a semi annual conference where the leaders speak these amazing, inspirational talks. I listened to one this weekend and the speaker said “It is important to distinguish between youthful mistakes which should be corrected and sins that require chastening and repentance. Where there is a lack of wisdom, our children need instruction; where there is sin, repentance is essential”.
How those words spoke to me, as I have watched this week as my son was tried and convicted very publicly. Now I can’t deny that a mistake was made. And I don’t think he will forget that a mistake was made. However, it was a “youthful mistake” I believe, which required correcting, which required instruction, and which also required taking responsibility and changing of behaviours. However, it was not a premeditated, adult sin that it was made out to be.
The school administrator actually understood this, and openly commented “He is a good kid, but has made a bad choice”. However, the consequence still stuck – and that is an important life lesson. Consequences do not go away.
The other adults involved did not feel the same way. Blood was sought, and I believe they felt a victory was won when the consequence was enforced, and proudly paraded their victory to the other parents.
I can’t help, after some pondering, feeling sorry for these other adults. What victory is there in condemning someone for their mistakes? How much greater a feeling it is to forgive someone, how much more freeing, how much more humbling, how much more peaceful! How much better is it to be part of teaching a child, rather than condemning them?
It made me think of how our Heavenly Father must feel when we condemn others in our lives for things that they may do in their ignorance, innocence or through bad choices. When we persecute those for their mistakes, when we judge too quickly, when we place them on trial and convict them in our minds. I’m sure He must be saying “If you could see what I see in this person, you would be filled with love and compassion. If you could see what I can see, you would react differently”.
So, as much as this was a diffiuclt week, lots of lessons were learned in our home. One, there are consequences tied to all actions, and we can’t always stop the bad ones from happening. We must be accountable and responsible and face whatever consequence we have been dealt with. Two, as parents, we need to be aware that youthful mistakes do happen and need instruction and correcting maybe more than chastening and punishment. And finally three, and most importantly, we must try to see others though a more eternal set of eyes. Seeing through those eyes will lead us to teach, to forgive, and to have love and compassion.