Forgiving Our Parents
Will Jaggers, is a remarkable eighteen year old who opened up about the impact of his father's suicide fifteen years ago. One of the things that jumped out at me about Will's story was his decision to forgive his father for his horrific choice to take his own life. Will's words got me thinking about the times when each of us face the choice to forgive our parents.
Here's a news flash: Parents aren't perfect. Some of us know this truth all too well. Personally, I've felt the sting of my dad's decision to leave my family for more than twenty years now. He made a very bad choice, and one I think he now regrets. Unfortunately, when our parents miss the mark we tend to suffer on a colossal scale.
I am sure that if we started comparing notes we could all tell a story of how our parents have wounded us. Some of us have been left. Some have been abused. Some neglected. Some called names. Some ignored. Some shamed. Some poked fun of. Some misunderstood. This is a list that could get really long. But I'm not interested in creating a forum for us to vent all of the ways our parents have messed up. I am interested in highlighting an important truth about the way we relate to our parents—it's our responsibility to forgive them.
Before you let your mind race down the path of "but you don't know what my mom/dad has done," let me step away from the microphone and let the Word speak.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Col. 3:12–13).
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17–21).
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice (Eph. 4:26–27, 31).
Let's simmer these three verses down to their essence:
- Jesus asks us to forgive others because He has forgiven us.
- It's God's job to right wrongs, not ours.
- He asks us to do everything in our power to live in peace with others.
- Refusing to deal with our anger, bitterness, rage, harsh words, backstabbing, and grudges gives Satan a foothold in our lives.
Which brings us back to parents. Your parents have likely already made some big mistakes and your parents will probably continue to make mistakes, some of which may hurt you deeply. And here's the flip side that you may not have considered—you've made some mistakes that have probably hurt them deeply too. Even so, God clearly asks us to forgive.