Tomorrow is the 4th of July when we celebrate our freedom as Americans. However, some people are still in bondage … emotional bondage. Brokenhearted parents are among them. Agonizing over their son or daughter’s struggle with alcohol, drugs, their sexuality, arrests, jail or prison, mental illness, self-injury, or pornography (and the list goes on), they’re crushed by the burdens they bear. Are you one of those parents? Do you want your life back? I did.
After years of chaos and turmoil with my daughter, I made a discovery: the power of forgiveness could set me free. Forgiveness played a key role in the process of gaining back my emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Now that is something to celebrate.
These are the steps of forgiveness I took to get my life back.
4 Steps to Emotional Freedom through Forgiveness:
1) Forgive your child – for hurting you. You may be furious and resentful over how you’ve been treated. You don’t trust your own son or daughter — you can’t believe him; you don’t even know her anymore. You’re angry at what they have done to themselves too. You need to forgive even if you’re not asked to. Jesus set the example. He said, “forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
2) Forgive yourself – for not being the perfect parent. There isn’t one. Even though you did your best, you still tend to carry a heavy load of guilt over any part you may have played. If you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll continue to live in bondage, chained to the weight of blame, shame, and a host of other burdens God never intended. He gave your child 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). Was that God’s fault? Do you deserve any better than what He got?
3) Forgive others – for hurting your child. This includes those who influenced your daughter negatively; who encouraged your son to make destructive choices. The people who took advantage of them, or didn’t help them when they could have. And those who you thought were your friends who either disappeared when you needed them or said things that inflicted more wounds on your already pain-racked soul. If you don’t forgive, you hurt yourself more.
4) Forgive God – for allowing your child to go astray; for not answering your prayers to help and protect them. He doesn’t need to be forgiven. He didn’t do anything wrong. In reality, you are the one who needs to be forgiven if you’ve begun to blame Him, fanning the flames of resentment toward Him in your heart. What matters is to be honest. If you’re mad and don’t understand what He has allowed, tell Him. He already knows what you think and feel. He can take it. He will help you.
The Power of Forgiveness
- Forgiveness isn’t just for the person who needs to be forgiven. Forgiveness is also for us, the “forgiver”.
- Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free. (Al-Anon)
- Forgiveness isn’t to condone or excuse the actions or behaviors of others.
- Forgiveness is the power of releasing the other person to their Maker to let Him deal with them, so that we can be set free.
- Some of our children don’t know they need to be forgiven, or even remember their offenses toward us. Therefore, one reason to forgive is for our sake — for our own soul.
- Pause a few minutes to think about these. Which one do you need to work on?
“If we hold on to our anger, we stop growing and our souls begin to shrivel.” – M. Scott Peck
There can be a lot to forgive … years of painful experiences. Our children intentionally or unintentionally inflicted deep wounds on our hearts and cost us a lot: loss of health, sleep, time at work, finances spent trying to help them or ourselves; damaged relationships—with them, our spouse, other children, other family members and even friends; loss of our mental and emotional well-being. Countless numbers of people may have hurt them and us. Some we knew well; others were strangers—we refer to the unknown people as them. Oh, the animosity and hatred we harbor toward the faceless, nameless ones. And most tragically, the flame of our faith may have dimmed or gone out. We may have even walked away from God in disappointment and confusion.
A Gift and a Long, Slow Process
Forgiveness. We need to offer this gift to others and to ourselves. If we don’t, the lack of forgiving can lead to bitterness and resentment, making us soul-sick and miserable.
How can we forgive? Look to Jesus. He is our role model. We forgive out of loving obedience to Him. He forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. How can we do any less?
The Bibles tells us to “Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
Dear struggling parent, let’s be honest. Forgiveness is a long, slow process, but if you choose this healing path, you can be set free from unnecessary burdens that crush your heart and hold you in bondage. Friend, there may not be much to celebrate on your journey toward emotional freedom today, but as you take baby steps forward, you can get there and that’s worth setting off fireworks about!
Not sure where to begin? The following prayer could be a good place to start:
Dear God, show me how to forgive in these four areas. I want to follow the example of Jesus. Resentment, guilt, and bitterness have shackled me long enough. I want to be set free for the sake of my soul. On my own I can’t forgive, but I’m willing to try. Please help me. Amen.
Who do you need to forgive? What would you add? I’d love to hear your comments.
Some of this content is from my book You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids, in the chapter on Forgiveness. Order your copy today through our website or wherever fine books are sold. And if you read it (or have read it), would you do me a big favor and write a review on Amazon? Reviews help more hurting parents find the encouragement, comfort and hope they need. Thank you!
- from the archives (revised)