All throughout the day, I am instructing my three children to apologize to one another. Mistreating one another physically or verbally isn't tolerated, and is met with discipline and then instruction to sincerely apologize.
Then there's me.
Annoyed and snappy with my daughter.
Rough with my slow son on the walk to the car.
Disrespectful to my husband with a sharp comment.
Yelling at my kids to "just be quiet" and "knock it off".
And not an apology in sight. Do you know what that makes me?
A complete hypocrite.
The message I am sending my children is not a good one, and it's this:
I am an adult, and I can do what I want. But you? You're a child and you must act perfectly and be humble and be kind and be Jesus, all the time. No excuses. Do it or I will discipline you again.
When I don't apologize for what I do wrong, I'm showing my kids that you don't always need to do the right thing. I'm showing them that it's okay to just skip the apology.
But it's not.
If I reverse this, and I am careful to apologize when I mess up, because I will mess up, then my children are seeing a real, living example of what it is to be a Christ-follower. They see what it is to be human, but to live in grace, forgiven and humble.
Today I got very angry with my oldest after she asked me for a Popsicle for the fifteenth time. She ran away to her room crying, which annoyed me because I had already told her "no" calmly so many times. God tapped on my heart and I knew what I needed to do.
"Bella, I'm sorry I yelled at you. That was not okay, and it was wrong of me. Please forgive me for using my voice to hurt you."
My daughter's face went from shock to understanding-- understanding of what it means to mess up and apologize. She told me she forgave me, then apologized for not listening and asking for a Popsicle so many times. And I didn't even have to tell her to. I led her by example and it clicked.
My kids remembering me as a hypocrite is one of the worst things I can imagine. My prayer lately is that God would continue to nudge me when I need to apologize, to my child, my husband, a friend, or a stranger. It is so incredibly humbling, but isn't humility the very best way I can be Jesus to somebody? After all, He lived out the ultimate humble act on the cross for me. I want my children to know how to live that out in daily life. That lesson starts with the story of the cross, and it continues every single day with me and how I live.