How to Recover from a Parent Whose Love Was Conditional

Quinnise Pettway

iBelieve Contributor
Updated Aug 02, 2021
How to Recover from a Parent Whose Love Was Conditional

We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, and there are times when a parent's love was only given or expressed on a conditional basis, and at other times withheld. How does one recover from a parent whose love was conditional? 

Our parents play a critical role in our development that doesn’t stop once we reach 18. Our parents’ influence carries over into adulthood, parenthood, life decisions, self-esteem, relationships, and every other aspect of our lives. Whether helpful or harmful, the impact is certainly made. Having a parent whose love was unconditional is a beautiful blessing. But unfortunately, that is not always the case.

We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, and there are times when a parent's love was only given or expressed on a conditional basis, and at other times withheld. Such an upbringing can leave behind scars and issues that reach well into one’s adulthood. So, what does one do? How does one recover from a parent whose love was conditional? How can the pain be soothed and the brokenness mended?

Recognize Who God Says You Are

While earthly parents are far from perfect, you have a perfect parent who calls you His child. His name is God. Galatians 3:26 says, "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." The more you grasp and meditate on your identity as a child of God, the more His Word and His Spirit can reshape and mold you.

Romans 8:15-17 states, "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering."

Being adopted into God's family comes with benefits, child of God. God gifts us with His love and freedom from anyone, anything, or any circumstance that tries to hold us captive. We receive His blessings and His inheritance. Although challenging, the more you remember who God says you are, the less you will feel the sting of human love withheld.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/digitalskillet

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Embrace Your Heavenly Father’s Unconditional Love for You

Despite having a mom or dad who struggled to provide unconditional love, you have a Heavenly Father who specializes in this department. Romans 5:8 is a beautiful illustration of this. It says, "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." God knew that we would be imperfect and sin against Him, yet because of His unconditional love, He had us on His mind and sent Jesus, His only Son, to die on our behalf. Now that is an extraordinary expression, or should I say, the ultimate demonstration of unconditional love.

For further confirmation of God's unconditional love, Romans 8:38-39 states, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This celebration-worthy passage reminds us that nothing can separate us from our Heavenly Father's love. No strings attached, no conditions, no fine print, and no disclaimers! God's love is unconditional. All you have to do is open your heart to receive it.

Allow God to Fill in the Gaps and Missing Pieces

A noticeable lack can be felt when a parent's love is conditional. Instability, confusion, frustration, and uncertainty tend to follow unsteady and unpredictable love. 

Do not lose hope, though. God has an answer for the gaps, voids, and missing pieces. Psalm 68:5 says that God is a "Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy." So when a parent is not all that we need him or her to be, God is! He is capable, ready, and willing to meet our needs in those broken places in our lives.

Furthermore, Psalm 27:10 provides additional comfort by stating, "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close." When mom or dad falls short, our Heavenly Father steps right in to fill the holes and cracks in our hearts and minds if we allow Him to. God has not and will not ever abandon, leave, or forsake any of His children. He is a good Father who loves to be active in the lives of His precious sons and daughters.

Consider Your Parents’ Humanity

Parents are human, and within all of our humanness lies imperfection. What was mom's upbringing like, and how was dad treated by his father? What was your parent exposed to in childhood? When we actually take a moment to consider this, we often find a cycle. Frequently those who struggle with extending unconditional love never received unconditional love. Sometimes it is not easy to pour out something that was never deposited in the first place.

Perhaps mom or dad was not part of a vicious cycle, but could have struggled with mental health issues or challenges to receive unconditional love, and therefore, had difficulty extending such love to others. Regardless of the reason, considering mom or dad's humanity is worth pondering. Two humbling scriptures that remind us all of our humanity and propensity to get things wrong are first, Ecclesiastes 7:20, "Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins." Second, Romans 3:23 states, "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." Both passages remind us that none of us get it right all of the time, and since none of us do, that leads to the next step in recovery.

Extend Forgiveness

If you have been on this earth longer than two seconds, this is likely not the first time that you have heard the word "forgive." Some may say, “but why should I forgive my parent?” He hurt me! She wronged me. Mom or dad does not deserve my forgiveness. I know it is hard, and the pain is real. Your life has been impacted in multiple ways. I hear you loud and clear, and our Heavenly Father has a kind response to those pressing questions. Colossians 3:13 admonishes us to "Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."

Also, Ephesians 4:32 states, "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Forgiveness is for your peace, sons and daughters of God. Forgiveness is for your sanity. Forgiveness frees your mind and removes that ugly bitterness that can spill over into every aspect of your life that could block you from being the best version of yourself that God wants you to be. Forgiveness allows you to experience that very abundant life that Christ came for you to have.

Let God Heal Your Hurt

While the pain is real and the wounds are undoubtedly deep, there is nothing too complicated for our Heavenly Father God to heal. We find soothing words of healing throughout Scripture. Psalm 30:2 says, "O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health." Psalm 34:17-18 exclaims, "The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed."

Moreover, Psalm 147:3 declares, "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds." Each passage reminds us that we can call out to God, and He will answer us. Our prayers are not falling on deaf ears. God is listening, and He will heal us. He will give us beauty for our ashes and joy for any sorrow we may have experienced due to the conditional love from our earthly parents. Our Heavenly Father is waiting with open ears and outstretched arms to hear our cries and to mend our hearts, minds, spirits, and souls. Keep in mind that healing is a process that does not always happen overnight, so be gentle with yourself as you work through the recovery process with the help, strength, and might of God.

Talk to God about It

Dear God,

Thank you for being my Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally. Please continue to remind me that I am your beloved child. Please help me recover from having a parent who loved me conditionally by filling in the gaps, missing pieces, and voids that I feel. 

Please help me forgive mom or dad for not being all that I needed him or her to be, as I recognize that they are human and make mistakes just as I do. Help me receive your healing to thrive and be all that you have called and created me to be.

In the name of Jesus,


Related Resource: Author and speaker Kia Stephens has a mission to help women who grew up without the love and affirmation of their biological father. In her FREE podcast, Hope for Women with Father Wounds, Kia provides encouragement, healing and practical wisdom for these often-overlooked women. Listen to every episode for FREE on You can listen to the first episode right here:

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/metamorworks

Quinnise Pettway author headshotQuinnise Pettway is an author, blogger, facilitator, Licensed Professional Counselor, wife, and mother whose mission is to help Christians shift their perspective of God, to strengthen their relationship with Him, and clarify their identity in Christ so that they can be all that He has created them to be. Connect with Quinnise and check out her new book, A Glimpse of Our Father: Lessons Parenthood Reveals for All of God’s Children here or on Amazon.

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