Sometimes the people who are supposed to love and care for us the most are the ones who abandon, neglect, or abuse us. The question is asked, “How do I get to the point of being able to forgive them?”
I am going to make three suggestions that I trust will not sound too trite because they are anything but that. Getting to the point where you are able to do these suggestions is monumental when you have suffered at the hand of a parent.
1) Gain a biblical perspective.
God’s command to “honor” our parents comes without qualification. And, His Word specifically warns against scorning them (Prov. 20:20; 28:24; 30:11,17), letting us know that it is destructive for us to do so. Yet, the Bible nowhere tells us to accept abandonment, neglect, or abuse as normal or acceptable. We can “honor” them as our parents without agreeing with them or condoning what they do. Likewise, forgiving someone does not mean we agree with, condone, or even forget what they’ve done. Rather, we are not holding it against them. We are unlikely to honor them if we do not forgive them and vice versa.
2) Transfer your dependence onto the Lord.
Part of the anger and resentment we hold over these kinds of parents comes because we feel betrayed by them, the ones who were supposed to love, care for, and protect us. Accept that your parent may never be what you want or need him/her to be. Rely on the Lord to be there for you, to be the One who will meet your innermost needs. — “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Ps. 27:10) We will not forgive until we let go of our anger. We will not let go of our anger until we let go of our expectations.
3) Relinquish control to the Lord.
When a parent or other significant adult in our lives has harmed us in some way (physical or emotional), we tend to become self-protective. We are going to do whatever is within our power to shield ourselves. To forgive may seem like you are letting that person win, like you are relinquishing control or power to them. However, by forgiving, you are actually helping yourself become whole. You will not truly heal until you forgive. To be able to choose to forgive, you will need to turn over that control to the Lord who has promised to be there for you. That does not mean you will never need to put boundaries in place to protect yourself from the dysfunction. But, you will be doing it for healing purposes, not simply to protect yourself.
Scripture makes no exceptions on whom we are to forgive (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). When we don’t forgive, it not only keeps a wedge between us and the other person but also hinders fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 6:12-15). Maybe your parent doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. Neither do any of us merit God’s forgiveness yet He went so far as to send Jesus to die for us so we could be forgiven. For the sake of the Lord and your relationship with Him, as well as your own inner healing, ask God to help you let go of your anger, bitterness, and resentment and forgive as He has forgiven you.