My youngest daughter has an excellent memory. She can describe, in detail, things that happened years ago that I don't even remember. This memory serves her well in things like studying for a spelling test or saying her memory verses for AWANA. But that memory makes it really easy for her to hold a grudge. She can remember every wrong committed against her, and, if she chooses to, she can hold it against that person for a long time.
We don't want our kids to carry grudges, and we shouldn't want to carry them ourselves. Hauling around an extra dose of anger does nothing but make us grumpy, unkind people, and it often hurts no one but ourselves. If we follow God's example, we will lay down our anger and let go of the offenses committed against us. Psalm 103:12 tells us "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
If anyone has a right to hold a grudge, it's God. He's perfect, and He created a beautiful world for us. All He asked in return is that we keep His commands. Yet, every day, we sin. God could hold that against us and condemn us to an eternity separated from Him, but He didn't. Instead, He sacrificed His son so that we could be reconciled to God. When we admit our sins to God, He separates them from us, and He forgives us. He doesn't hold a grudge.
We want our kids to emulate God. It's so easy to hold a grudge when someone hurts us, but God expects us to forgive and not hold onto our anger. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean putting yourself in a position to be hurt it again. It simply means letting go of the anger and bitterness that we have toward a person. That action helps us, not the person who wronged us. It lifts a huge weight off our shoulders, and it pleases God.
- When your kids are angry with someone, talk with them about the reasons for their anger. Remind them that God tells us " 'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Help your kids to ask God to help them let go of their anger and forgive the person who made them mad.
- The next time your child is having trouble letting go of their anger, hand them a bag filled with rocks. On the outside of the bag, write anger. Have your child carry the bag around for a little while. Talk with your kids about how anger and unforgiveness really only hurts the person who is angry. Holding a grudge is like carrying around a bag of rocks all the time. It takes energy to carry that burden around, and it makes us difficult people to be around. When we give God our anger, He can help us to forgive those who hurt us.
- Give your kids something bitter to taste -- horseradish or a lemon. Talk about how it made their tongue and their mouth feel. Tell your kids that when we hold a grudge and carry around our anger, it can make us bitter. When we are carrying around anger, there's little room for things like love and compassion for others. Then give your kids something sweet to eat. Explain that when we offer forgiveness and let go of our anger, we are like the sweet thing with love and compassion to share.
Remember that anger and unforgiveness don't usually hurt the person who hurt us, but they become a big burden for us. So, the next time you or your kids are angry, lay that burden down at God's feet and let Him replace it with love.