How You Forgive a Flawed Parent


 I am experiencing some powerful emotions right now. Over the past two days I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of my father and of a sister whom I have never met {or seen before}. I don’t know the circumstances behind why I didn’t know my father and I’m not sure if my sister even knows that I exist. How do you deal with the hurt of rejection, fear, trepidation, and wanting all at the same time? Do you reach out to a sister who might not know you exist or do you leave it alone? When I see the postings saying how he was a great father while I missed knowing him, I wonder how my life would have been if I had a father figure to guide me.

I was the one quick to say “I don’t care that he didn’t want me.” I lied to myself and others. I thought I had dealt with all of these feelings but I guess I haven’t. My mother has been deceased now for five years, and that was after years of her belittling me and being verbally and emotionally abusive.

I well remember the first time I ever heard my oldest brother (my adopted mother’s only biological child) get very emotional. We were talking on the phone and he started to cry as he said, “Oh, JoAnne, you didn’t know something was wrong with mom?” I don’t know how anyone expected me to know that somehow her belittling wasn’t my fault. I had always blamed myself for mom’s frequent tears and mean-spiritedness.

My question is, “How do we ever find or feel forgiveness for a flawed parent who was verbally and emotionally abusive over many years?”  {To this day, I have no clue what was wrong with her.}


the letter A for answer small sizeYou lived your whole life developing belief systems based on how your mother interacted with you. Now, you find out she probably struggled with some type of mental health issue that was partially responsible for how she treated you. There are a lot of emotions going on for you I would guess: sadness, hurt, rejection, anger and feelings of loss. To move on, you will first have to address those issues and process your pain and your anger. Be specific about what you’re angry about. List each offense you had against your mother. List what you hoped or expected from her that you didn’t get. Then pray about each thing bringing it before the Lord. When you’re ready, pray a prayer of forgiveness and release any “debt” owed you.

I recommend a book called Forgiving and Reconciling by Dr Everette Worthington Jr.

Forgiveness is a means of release for the one holding the debt (you). It says in affect that “I release you (mom) from never meeting my needs and I chose to trust Christ to meet all my needs, including my needs for love, acceptance, value, security and adequacy.”

Forgiveness involves the giving over of a right. The right to have things be the way you wanted them to be. It may mean surrendering the right to hold on to your anger along with a willingness to walk in forgiveness. It may mean surrendering the right to have had a nurturing mother or to have been told the truth.

You also want to think about the virtues of love, empathy, sympathy and compassion. When you think about your mother, try and put yourself in her shoes. Can you allow yourself to feel sympathy for her having an illness and perhaps not knowing what to do or how to cope? Focusing on these virtues will help you move toward forgiveness.


EDITOR UPDATE:  This is a reader-submitted question. The “JoAnne” referenced here is not Jo Ann Fore. There has been some confusion and we wanted to offer that clarity.

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