Continued from here.
Most of what I discussed this week is about your own relationship with an offender. How do we apply this to making reconciliation decisions concerning our children?
Step 1 is to work through all of these steps for yourself. When the “Mama Bear” instinct has been triggered on behalf of our “cubs,” we are just as susceptible to allowing bitterness to take root in ourselves. We need to remove that bitterness through forgiveness so we can see clearly to instruct our children. Get your own heart right with God before leading your child.
Step 2 to is teach these lessons to your child. Be open and honest about how you were tempted to hate the offender for hurting your child. Explain the steps you worked through (or are currently working through) to forgive so your child can also learn these steps. Your child needs to forgive as well before she can make a good decision about reconciliation.
Step 3 is to inquire about why your child desires to continue a relationship with the offender. Did the offender apologize and take responsibility for her actions? Is there more to the story that you don’t know about yet? What value does your child see in this relationship that outweighs the offense?
My son chose not to be close friends with his offender again (much to my relief!), but he did choose to maintain a surface-level acquaintanceship with him, mostly through social media. When I asked him why, he provided some valid reasons. I cautioned him that because the offender has not taken responsibility or apologized for his actions, he might do them again. My son is not worried because he has changed in positive ways from this experience. For example, he learned not to change who he is to please someone else, as he had done in that friendship. Instead, he found new friends who like him exactly as he is. Because my son changed through the experience, he is no longer the same person and, thus, no longer vulnerable to the dynamic from which the offense arose. In other words, his relationship with this person is not the same because my son is no longer the same.
Ask God for wisdom and discernment concerning your child. If her desire to resume the friendship is based on returning to the same dynamic, you may need to intervene. However, if she has grown through this painful experience, she might have changed enough so that the dynamic will be different this time. Ultimately, our children need to learn to make their own choices concerning their friends – we will not always be in a position to control this. With God’s direction, you can help her see the bigger picture and make healthier decisions about how she allows other people to treat her.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a picture, drawn by a child, of someone smiling by a house and pet. Courtesy Bitmoji.]