Our family, especially our parents, can wound us deeper than anyone else.
I used to get so agitated when I spoke to my mother that afterward I would rant to anyone who would listen. Oddly enough, when asked, I would say I had forgiven her for the disappointments and hurts I experienced over the years.
It's only recently that I've begun to understand and apply the process of true forgiveness. And our relationship has been transformed because of it.
She didn't change. I did.
Change Starts With Forgiveness
We're sinning when we pass judgment, speak or act in anger, or carry grudges (Matthew 7:1, Matthew 5:21-24, Ephesians 4:26-27). As Christians, we’ve been forgiven of all of our sins – even the ones we haven’t committed yet. The way we show our gratitude for this extraordinary forgiveness is by forgiving others.
But forgiveness isn't just a Christian's duty, it’s a gift.
Christian author Lewis B. Smedes wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was you." Forgiveness allows us to live in victory, not as victims.
What Is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone, excuse, or deny real injury. It also doesn’t mean we must remain in dangerous or unhealthy situations.
True forgiveness is when we choose to release our bitterness, resentment and anger over these hurts. We let go of expectations. We choose to give control over to God, receive the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, and show mercy and grace.
I was able to let go of my resentment when I stopped expecting my mother to live up to my idea of what a mother should be. I sought out what Jesus (and other people) love about her, I invested in her happiness and well-being by trying to serve her.
An Attitude of Forgiveness
Whether we’ve suffered one big wound or ongoing, repeated injuries, we must learn to live in a continual state of forgiveness. Jesus told Peter that we must forgive “our brother…not [just] seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Just as we need daily forgiveness, we must forgive others daily (Matthew 6:9-15).
How to Forgive
Forgiveness, like other acts of obedience, is not easy. Experiencing the freedom that comes from forgiveness comes from our committing to take four steps:
Pray for God to change your heart, so you can feel compassion for those who hurt you (1 Samuel 16:7, Daniel 9:9).
Develop a habit of recognizing the best things about others rather than focusing on what offends you. When we're wounded by parents, we often try so much not to be like them that we fail to see even their best qualities in ourselves. And it’s hard for us to accept forgiveness if we can’t forgive them for similar faults.
Stop trying to change them; only Jesus can do that. Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." How can you approach the relationship differently?
Pray for them to experience God’s forgiveness themselves. Jesus illustrated this for us as when He asked God to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34).
Committing to these steps enabled me to feel compassion for my mother — to see her heart, her wisdom, her growth — and to establish a relationship with her.
Having the mother I've always wanted started with me.
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