All of us experience occasional lapses in judgment. We all make mistakes and our kids make mistakes. It's easy to point out that we're only human and rationalize returning to our unhealthy or dangerous behaviors.

We might reason that we're not hurting anyone else, so it's OK to engage in drugs, pornography, theft or adultery, for example. However, our actions do affect others - our children, other family members, our friends and God.

God wants to forgive us. He has provided for us the principles of repentance and forgiveness as a means to wipe clean our slates and start fresh. He has promised that when we repent, he will remember our sins no more. But, he understands that many of us will return to our sins.

Religious leader Craig Cardon says, "Yet in his mercy, he allows for improvement over time rather than demanding immediate perfection. Even with the multitude of sins occasioned by the weakness of mortality, as often as we repent and seek his forgiveness, he forgives again and again."

God knows our hearts, however, "and rationalized false faith does not justify sin," Cardon continues. In other words, we can't expect to be excused when our intentions to repent are false or insincere.

Sometimes we may feel that we've sunk so low, there is no hope. Or maybe our kids are entrapped by destructive habits or behavior, causing us to feel helpless. At times we all may wonder why God would forgive us. Here are some reasons:

God wants us to be happy

It's hard to feel peaceful when we are weighed down by sin. Thus, he taught the principle of repentance as a means to lighten the burdens of unhappiness and uneasiness caused by our wrongdoings.

He understands our weaknesses

God knows us intimately. He wants us to put forth an effort and rise above our temptations. We can only do this with his help.

He loves us

This simple truth is easy to forget. Adults and children alike tend to be too hard on themselves. When we take time to pray and seek God's peace and love in our lives, our perspective changes and we're strengthened.

The path to gaining God's forgiveness is to repent. How can we repent of our wrongdoings? How do we teach our children to repent?

Acknowledge the sin

Recognize the wrongdoing and feel sorrow.

Confess to God

Pour out your heart to him and be honest with him.

Ask God for forgiveness

Remember that he loves you and wants to forgive you. Forgive yourself, too.

Seek restitution for the wrongdoing

If another person has been wronged, apologize and ask forgiveness. If possible, correct the problem with the other person.

Don't return to the sin

Promise yourself and God that you won't make the same mistake. If you do, repent again.

Thomas Monson, leader of a worldwide church, says, "We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits. They can repent from transgressions ... We can help them to overcome their shortcomings. We must develop the capacity to see men not as they are at present but as they may become." We can apply this counsel to ourselves. We can also be patient with others we know who may be struggling with inappropriate behaviors.

Keep in mind that God willingly forgives. He loves us and yearns to be a part of our lives. As we strive to repent of our sins and teach our children to repent, we can lose the burdens of unhappiness and shame and feel God's peace in our lives. When we feel that peace, we know that we have been forgiven.

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