I did not have a good relationship with my earthly father when I was growing up, but I am happy to say it has greatly improved over time. God has given me the strength to forgive my dad for loving me poorly as a child. About ten years ago, I took him out to lunch for his Seventieth birthday and intentionally tried to learn about his own childhood. He told me that he had never had a personal relationship with his own father. I came away with a deeper realization of the pain with which my dad has lived his entire life. His own father had been a physically abusive alcoholic for most of his childhood—the classic town drunk. Dad told me stories of how, only a small boy, he was sent to the tavern to walk his drunk father home—something a little boy should never have been asked to do. Without justifying my dad’s behavior toward me, I now understand where it originated. My favorite part of our lunch came when I shared with my dad how, by the grace of God, I have been able to show affection to my children, helping stop the negative, abusive cycle in our family. A new cycle of love has begun—and my dad was very happy to hear it. I am so glad I took the chance to ask my dad about his own boyhood before he died! This knowledge gave me a measure of compassion I didn’t have before. Life is too short to live with unforgiveness toward parents who may have not loved you well.
When we don’t forgive someone in our heart, we end up giving that person too much power over us. One simple definition of forgiveness is giving up our right to hurt someone back. In Scripture, God declares that vengeance is his, not ours. Some use the phrase forgive and forget, yet doing so is humanly impossible unless God erases our memory. The good news is that we can be in a state of true forgiveness even if we remember something bad that someone did to us. The key is not continuing to remember it “against them.”
Forgiveness is a process rather than a one-time event. Several signs show that you have truly forgiven someone. You have forgiven someone when you can honestly pray for that person and ask God to bless him or her. True forgiveness has come when you have given up all attempts to hurt that person. Another obvious sign that the poison of resentment is gone is when you can think of the person without experiencing a sharp pain in your gut. Some think that only a complete restoration of relationship signifies forgiveness, but that is not true. You can truly forgive someone in your heart while still maintaining healthy boundaries in your relationship with a person who has proven untrustworthy. Life is too short to have unforgiveness in your heart.
Question: Do you need to talk with a parent who has not loved you well to try to understand him or her better?
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”