At the age of eighteen, I gave my life to the Lord. Although I was raised Catholic, I didn’t truly know Him until that time. When I converted, my parents were furious. Our conflict culminated in my parents throwing me out of my house two years later. Because of this, I lived with a family who attended my church for two years until I married my husband.
If anyone understands how difficult it is to forgive parents for the pain they have caused, it’s me. Although this occurred over twenty years ago, the issues of rejection and abandonment took me many years to fully resolve. But through the merciful power of God and the power of church community, I was able to process my past and enjoy the profitable future God had in store for me.
I don’t know the types of wounds your parents have inflicted on you, but God commands that we forgive as we have been forgiven. No matter what you have been through, God does not want you to remain stuck in your pain but rather live in freedom. Here are some steps to take if you don’t know to get started:
1. Bring your pain to the surface.
Recall the moments when you felt like your relationship with your parents became strained. What were the circumstances and situations revolving around that event? What did your parents say (or do)? What did you say (or do)? What were your feelings in that moment? Do you think your parents could have been operating out of their own unresolved pain, or was there a grain of truth to what they were saying or doing?
2. Understand the generation gap.
Although I wish I could have lived in a perfect Christian household, the reality is I wasn’t. We live in a broken world with broken people. My parents were doing the best they had with the knowledge and experiences they were given from the generations before them. My parents were raised by a generation who lived in the Great Depression, which subjected them to great poverty. They also were raised in a world where “children should be seen and not heard.” Your parents were taught they didn’t have a role in their family dynamic but were born out of inconvenience or to help them work in the fields and contribute to the household income. Perhaps your parents never received the love and approval they desperately sought from their parents, which unfortunately was then passed on to you.
3. Ask your parents their story.
It is difficult to express compassion for people you don’t know fully. However, it is when I understand the back story behind a person’s actions helps me open my heart towards forgiveness. Your parents are authority figures but they were once kids like you. More than likely their mistakes in raising you stem from something they learned or what was done to them by their parents. You may know the basics of their life, but what about their childhood? What was their relationship with their parents like?
4. Forgive quickly and often.
It may be difficult for you to forgive abusive situations. But there is nothing that Christ’s death on the cross did not cover under His blood. Pray and ask God to help you forgive them. Ask him to soften your heart if you don’t know how to get past your pain.
5. Bless those that curse you.
As much as we deny it, we become like the people who had the greatest influence in our lives if we don’t correct past mistakes. However, Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments are clear: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lordyour God is giving you.” What does it mean to honor? Honoring your parents doesn’t mean you have to agree or condone everything they do or have done to you. But holding a grudge against them prevents them from having the long prosperous days Exodus promises them. Instead, the Bible says not only should we pray for our enemies but bless those that have cursed us.
Are there ways you can bless your parents through your words? Can you take it one step further and bless them with your actions? Start small if your relationship is strained. Send a card wishing them well or send flowers. Call more often and open up the lines of communication. The more you take the focus off of your anger and onto practicing love, eventually the callous on your heart will be removed and replaced with kindness and goodness, two fruits of the spirit that make you more like Christ.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
Originally published Monday, 09 October 2017.