It's important to give teenagers the opportunity to respond to our confession — to ask if they can find it in their hearts to forgive us. This is a wonderful opportunity to model seeking forgiveness. Our children need to see the importance of asking someone to forgive us when we make a mistake. Most young people are aware that the Bible says we're to seek forgiveness when we hurt someone. But unless they see us valuing it by doing it ourselves, they're not likely to ask forgiveness either.

When Bill was about 17, his father, Jerry, got a speeding ticket while in Florida on a business trip. Jerry decided to keep his mistake a secret. He had always taken great pride, after all, in his flawless driving record. He even went to great lengths to remind his family of it. Whenever a family member received a traffic ticket, Jerry was the first to give the "lawbreaker" a hard time.

Jerry's secret was safe until the state of Florida sent him a letter requesting his attendance at driving school. By mistake, Bill opened the letter and discovered his dad's misfortune. "Kelly, you'll never guess what I found!" Bill told his sister. "Dad was caught doing 75 on an on-ramp in Florida. Mr. 'I've never received a single speeding ticket' has to attend driving school!" The two laughed and couldn't wait until their dad got home.

When their parents walked through the door together that evening, Bill and Kelly asked them both to sit down. "Mom," the two stated while trying to remain serious, "we suspect that Dad has been hiding something from us."

"Dad," they questioned while holding up the letter, "do you have any idea why the state of Florida would be requesting your presence at driving school? Have you experienced any problems — no, make that 'delays' — while getting on the freeway?"

Jerry turned red as he realized he'd been caught.

"You should know you can't keep things from us," his children said while laughing. "We're very disappointed in you, young man."

The entire family had fun watching Jerry squirm. Much to their surprise, however, he didn't become defensive. Instead, he got down on his knees and made a remarkable statement: "I'm sorry for trying to deceive you guys about the ticket. Could you forgive me?"

His teenagers were taken aback. Is Dad really apologizing for this? they thought. It had been a long time since they had heard him seek forgiveness. He truly touched their lives with a valuable lesson.

For Christmas that year, one of Jerry's children gave him a special award in honor of his remarkable attitude, one that still sits on his desk. It's a small plaque that reads: "Outstanding Commitment to Continuing Driver's Education. Thanks for being a Man, Dad!"

We strongly encourage you to begin modeling the seeking of forgiveness to your teenagers. It will encourage and inspire them, and most of the time it will open their closed hearts.

© Copyright 2005 Smalley Relationship Center