Forgiveness. For parents walking the path of having a difficult child this is part of the journey. If your child is causing you a lot of heartache and pain forgiveness doesn’t come easy. When alcohol or drugs are being abused, when they are cutting or burning themselves, have an eating disorder, are confused about their sexual orientation or have been in and out of trouble with the law there has been a lot that needs forgiving.
Our beloved children have made choices that have cost us a lot: Loss of health. Loss of sleep. Loss of time at work. Loss of finances – money spent trying to help them. Loss of or damage to our realtionships – with them, with our spouse, with our other children, maybe even with our friends. Loss of our emotional and mental well-being. Our faith can be weakened. We may even have walked away from God. How dare he let this happen to us?
We need to experience forgiveness on several levels.
1) We need to forgive our child for how they hurt us. And they have hurt us deeply. It is an open gaping wound for some of us. A mortal blow for others. Broken hearts. Shattered dreams. Surgery of the soul will be required for our healing. The pain of rejection and watching them destroy themselves. A death has occured. We are thrown into a period of grieving the unthinkable loss of all we hoped and dreamed of for our precious son or daughter.
2) We need to forgive ourselves for not being the perfect parent (there isn’t one — only God!) Be easy on yourself. Refuse to believe the lie that it is all your fault. You didn’t make them choose what they have. You did the best you could. No matter how badly you may have blown it, it doesn’t excuse their choices.
3) We need to forgive others – those who hurt our child. Those who encouraged their behavior, sold them drugs, took advantage of them or hurt them in some way. This is a biggie. This was very difficult for me. My daughter has been raped by men who took advantage of her when she was drunk. I had so much unforgiveness in my heart toward them. It wasn’t hurting them at all – only me. Forgiving them has been a long slow process for me. Your friends may walk away, too. They can’t handle your pain. Your suitcase is too heavy for them. They want to, but they can’t carry it. It’s not their fault. They just can’t do it. It’s too hard. They can’t understand.
Louise Smedes said it so well: “The first and only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness….When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”
4) We may even need to forgive God. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? It can be very difficult to accept that while he is all-powerful and could have prevented them from going astray, he gave them free will to choose for themselves what they will do with their lives. We blame him for not protecting them from the bad things that happened to them as a result, even though they were the natural consequences of their choices. God doesn’t need to be forgiven because he didn’t do this TO them. WE need to forgive him, if we are blaming him and resentment is building up in us.
The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness. These are two of my favorite verses on the subject:
“Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23: 34)
Why should I forgive? Because Jesus has forgiven me and it is for my well-being. If he forgave those who brutally crucified him then I can forgive. He is my example. This is what motivated the Amish parents in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, to forgive the young men who murdered their children in the school shooting several years ago. He is the how and the why of forgiving.
Forgiveness. We need to offer it. If we don’t it will only lead to bitterness. It is the only way to lance our wounds before they fester and make us sick. I encourage you to make this journey of forgiveness. It is not easy. It is not quick. It is a long, slow process. It takes a lot of hard work. But if you choose to forgive, you will be set you free.
You can read more about how the Amish community forgave in the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy available from Amazon.