How do you define “forgiveness”? Do we have to feel forgiving in order to offer it to our child? Do they need to deserve it or ask for it first?
Forgiveness is not just for the person who needs forgiving. It’s also for us, the “forgiver”.
Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free. (Al-Anon)
Forgiveness isn’t condoning or excusing the actions or behaviors of others. It’s releasing that person to their Maker to let him deal with them, so that we can be set free. For parents whose children are abusing alcohol or drugs, involved in a same-sex relationship, in jail or prison, engaged in self harm, involved with pornography, have had a child out of wed-lock, and the list goes on and on, forgiveness is part of the process of gaining back their lives.
Some are not likely to even know they need forgiving, or remember the offense. Therefore one reason to forgive is for our own sake and for our own health. “If we hold on to our anger, we stop growing and our souls begin to shrivel.” – M. Scott Peck
Our child may have made decisions and choices that inflicted deep wounds in our hearts and cost us a lot: Loss of health, sleep, time at work, finances spent trying to help them or ourselves; loss of or damaged relationships – with them, our spouse, other children, other family members and even friends; loss of our mental and emotional well-being. Our faith can be weakened or we may even walk away from our faith in disappointment and confusion. There is a way to be free. It’s found in the four steps below.
We need to:
1) Forgive our child – for hurting us. We may feel very angry and resentful over how we’ve been treated. We don’t trust them, can’t believe them, don’t even know them anymore. We also feel angry at what they’re doing to themselves. We must forgive even if they don’t ask us to. Jesus said, “forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
2) Forgive ourselves – for not being the perfect parent. Oh wait, there isn’t one. Even though we did our best, we still tend to feel a lot of guilt over any part we may have played. If we don’t forgive ourselves we’ll end up living under the weight of guilt, blame, shame and a host of other feelings that God never intended. He gave our children a free will to make their own choices. Don’t forget what happened in the Garden of Eden to the only Perfect Parent (Genesis 2).
3) Forgive others – for hurting our child. This includes those who influenced them negatively, encouraged their destructive choices, took advantage of them, or didn’t help them when they could have.
4) Forgive God – reconciling his power and Sovereignty with free-will; for allowing our child to go astray; for not answering our prayers to keep this from happening or protecting them. He doesn’t need to be forgiven. He didn’t do anything to them. In reality,WE need to be forgiven if we’ve begun to blame him, allowing resentment to build up in our hearts – maybe without even realizing it.
Forgiveness. We need to offer it. If we don’t, it will only lead to bitterness. It’s the only way to lance our wounds before they begin to fester.
Jesus is my role model. I forgive out of obedience to him because he forgave me.
He is the How and the Why of forgiving.
It’s a long, slow process, but if you choose to do it, you can be set free.
This is a great Scripture verse on forgiveness:
“Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Help us forgive because of your example. Holding onto anger, resentment, guilt and bitterness are wearing us out. On our own we can’t do this, but we’re willing, so please show us how. In Jesus’ name, Amen.