Mistakes! We’ve all made them. Some mistakes are easily corrected, others can take quite a lot of time and effort to fix. I’ve made my share of mistakes. I will probably make a few more before my time on this earth is through. Big or small, I can honestly say that I’ve learned from my mistakes. They’ve made me a better person, a better mother and wife. My mistakes and my journey to overcome those mistakes are as much a part of me as any other attribute that makes me – me.
But what happens when our children make mistakes? Are we as patient or as understanding? Do we forgive? Do we look at it as an opportunity for them to grow, or do we only see the looks that we imagine our neighbors and friends are giving us? Do we view it as a reflection of our abilities (or lack thereof) as parents? Are we somehow threatened by our children’s mistakes because of the way it might make us look?
One of the hardest things a parent has to do is watch their children make mistakes. It is hard to stand by and watch your child make bad choices. It’s even harder to watch them suffer the consequences of those poor choices.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught that each of us is given the gift of agency. Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that he allowed us to choose.
And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (Helaman 14:30-31)
He will not force us to obey Him and follow His will. Instead, He gave us the freedom to choose for ourselves. Knowing the pain I feel when I watch my children make mistakes, I can imagine how much more our Heavenly Father hurts when we make mistakes. Yet, as a loving Heavenly Father, His way is not to force, but to guide, to forgive, and to give us chances over and over again.
Can we do any less for our own children? Yes, we’d rather they didn’t make some of the mistakes they made. Yes, we wish they had made smarter, better, worthier choices than they made. Yes, we hurt, we’re disappointed, sometimes we’re even angry. But now is not the time for “I told you so” speeches. Now is the time for love, an outpouring of unconditional love.
As a mother, I need to trust that I’ve raised my sons the best way I know how. I need to remember that I’ve taught them the word of God. I need to remember that I’ve tried in every way I know how, to instill in them a love for everything that is good, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Then, I need to stand back and allow them to exercise their agencies. I will always guide, counsel, and advise, but in the end, it is up to them. I need to acknowledge that they too will make their share of mistakes. When (not if) they fall, I will be there to help them pick up the pieces. When they fall, I will be there to help them find their way back. When they fall, I will forgive them.
President Howard W. Hunter, 14th President of the Church, taught:
To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character.
Given the freedom to choose, we may, in fact, make wrong choices, bad choices, hurtful choices. And sometimes we do just that, but that is where the mission and mercy of Jesus Christ comes into full force and glory. He has taken upon himself the burden of all the world’s risk. He has provided a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make. He is our advocate with the Father and has paid, in advance, for the faults and foolishness we often see in the exercise of our freedom. We must accept his gift, repent of those mistakes, and follow his commandments in order to take full advantage of this redemption. The offer is always there; the way is always open. We can always, even in our darkest hour and most disastrous errors, look to the Son of God and live.
Don’t you just love that? There aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for the gift of the Atonement.
I’m thankful for a loving Heavenly Father and for His gift of Agency. The knowledge that He trusts me so much that He allows me to choose gives me the courage to pick myself up when I’ve made mistakes. I’m so grateful for a Church that teaches us about the wonderful principle of Agency. I’m thankful because I know that this gift is available to my children as well. It is available to all of us.
This, and other teachings of the Church, gives me eternal hope. I have hope that, whatever mistakes my sons may make, they will make it right. I have hope that when they do mistakes, they will remember that their Heavenly Father will forgive them if they sincerely repent of those mistakes. I have hope that when they fall, they will pick themselves up and try again. I have hope that when they fall, they will learn and grow and become better men because they corrected and overcame their mistakes.