Forgiving My Earthly Father

Last week I wrote about how my earthly “father issues” have negatively impacted my relationship with my husband, but with the emphasis being on my relationship with God. And I want to follow that up next time with how my father issues have impacted “my marriage.” 

But this time around, I want to take the opportunity to clarify an important step in healing my father wounds … forgiveness.

My Dad and I at a church picnic in the park

I lived with a father who was not evil nor intentionally unkind. In fact, my father often tried to over-correct for the harshness that my mother sometimes displayed. It probably was in those moments that I felt “loved” the most by him. And yet that one connection was unhealthy because of his tendency to “emotionally rescue.”  (Makes sense when you know that his own father physically abused his mother, and as a teen he tried to intervene.)

Most of the time, however, I felt “disconnected” from him because … he didn’t know how to connect.

I didn’t understand that important fact for a very long time. So I resented him for never really paying attention to me, never really trying to get to know me, and never really showing his affection or love to me. As a teen and young adult, I told myself that he knew what he was doing, but chose other priorities over me.

It probably wasn’t until he was in the hospital and facing a health crisis (that he believed might take his life) that an important piece fell into place. I was at his hospital bedside when he apologized for putting God’s work ahead of me and my siblings, but with the caveat that it was what God had called him to do.

I boiled inside.

I think I needed to hear that apology, even though it stung. And in time, I came to realize that he didn’t know. He didn’t believe that what he had done was wrong. I think he trusted that God would be our Father and fill the gaps that he had left in our hearts (Sadly, more than I trusted that truth).

It was then that I realized that my father was a flawed, skin and bones, creature of dust … just as I was and am.

So I began to forgive him. In fact, I’ve worked very hard at letting him off the hook and have felt closer to God and to my father, as well, having done that. Part of forgiving him involved, not just making the decision, not just processing my loss and pain, but also giving to him.

I began to meet with him regularly to ask him questions about his life. As I recorded those stories, God opened my eyes to the man I’d never really known all those years. I grew in compassion and understanding for him. I think, perhaps for the first time, I really began to love him. And I think it helped him to open up and love me more too.

My father has since died. And I can honestly say that I didn’t have any regrets in my relationship with him when he died in 2007. It was a step, in a series of many, that’s healing the wounds of this life for me.  

So, if you haven’t already …

I hope that you give the gift of forgiveness to your father and yourself today!

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  • BigD

    Good article.
    I had to go through this a few years ago (the forgiveness part; it wasn’t the result of an apology). I was prompted by a sermon at church.
    My father had been physically and emotionally abusive to my mother.
    (My sister contends us kids, too, but I always wrote it off as heavy-handed discipline, not abuse.)
    I really had to come to grips with what issues were MINE to forgive and what was really between him and my mother. Then I had to let go, and let her find her own forgiveness (there was conversation there).
    Now, making the transfer to my own marriage relationship is another thing altogether. I’m still working on that!

  • I’ve always struggled with Fathers Day and choosing a card for my dad. I don’t have positive memories and he didn’t influence my life in a profound way. But I learned as I got older how his own upbringing effected his parenting. He wasn’t loved or accepted as a child and was working on limited resources. Great post and important truths. Blessings!

  • Brenda Haynes

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It would appear we both have had to work through some forgiveness issues with our dads. Isn’t God amazing how He helps us through that difficult process. http://brenda-thethingsiponder.blogspot.com/

  • I’m so glad you chose to include this step in your road to healing. Many don’t.

    Mary Beth
    newlifesteward.com

  • JosephPote

    You’ve hit on a big one, here, Beth. We all have things we must forgive our earthly parents for, quite simple. because we are all imperfect.

    Learning to see our parents as imperfect humans, for whom we must have grace, is a big part of maturing.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, Big D, it really is so interrelated and complex. But you’ve found, like me, the best way is to take one relationship at a time and find forgiveness. I’m so glad you are on that path. I’d say that marriage is the hardest frontier for forgiveness since offenses continue to occur. I’ll have to write about that some time. Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging! I’ve missed hearing from you! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I think I’ve hit on a nerve for a lot of folks. The hurts we’ve experienced from our parents have such profound implications for our lives. But we have a Savior who conquers and heals them all! Thanks so much for stopping by, Brenda! I appreciate the encouragement!

  • OutnumberedMom

    What an awesome step you took, and what healing resulted! This is such a hope-filled testimony.

    You left such a thoughtful comment on my post for today…made me think further about my own post! Thanks, Beth.

  • H. Copple

    Nice post. I have been able to forgive to the extent that I can. I do not have the option of knowing my biological father nor would it be safe to open that door. I have worked through the issues with my adoptive father. The best thing about the forgiveness is the weight that is lifted from my spirit.

  • Ro elliott

    Oh…I can still remember where I was sitting on my bed…in my 30’s finally being able to pray…Father forgive him…for he did not know what he did…and I can say…we are finishing life together beyond anything I could have ever imagined…if we give God a chance…He can redeem all circumstances….and isn’t it such a blessing not to have any regret. thanks for sharing your story…blessings~

  • Amy Thornton

    What a moving story. And one with an important message – forgiveness. It’s so hard to give sometimes. I know your forgiveness of him made a positive difference for both of you. Thank you so much for sharing and for linking up with NOBH.

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad you stopped by, Amy. Forgiveness is a hard gift to give, but like most things in life, the hardness makes it all the more worthwhile and precious. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me!

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad you were encouraged by it! And I’m glad you felt encouraged by my comment at your blog. I love all the blogging friendships I’m cultivating. And I learn something new every time there’s a blog hop! Thanks so much for coming by, Laura!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, some ways that we forgive don’t even involve being around or with the person who hurt us. That’s really more the reconciliation side of forgiveness which isn’t always possible or healthy. I know you’ve worked hard on forgiving, Heather, and you’re so right about it lifting our spirits. Thanks as always for your support and encouragement!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, it’s really been a long road to forgiveness for me as well, Ro. I gave the “Readers Digest” version of events, but the main point is, as you said, God redeems all of what we give to Him. I’m just so glad that I came to that point and glad that you have as well. And yes, it is such a blessing to not have regret–to be free to love. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Beth, you are grace personified. What a wonderful story of love and redemption. So amazing!
    Bless you friend, and have a lovely week.

  • You share the story of coming to forgiveness so beautifully, Beth. I am reminded again of the words from Corrie ten Boom where she asked God to provide the feeling if she just provided the outstretched hand.

    I am so glad that you were able to reconcile with your dad, and I hope your story inspires others to reach out in forgiveness as well!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, I think we forget about the “give” part of forgiveness. There’s something healing that comes from being willing to give when we might not receive back. God blesses it. Thanks for coming by to encourage, Amy. I really appreciate it!

  • messymarriage

    Okay, let me try this again! (I’ve had some issues with Disqus–so sorry for the repeats if you received them on your end!) But thanks so much for coming by to encourage me, Ro! I truly appreciate it and am thankful that you’ve walked this road of forgiveness as well! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Thank you, Heather. I know that you’ve had a much harder road to forgiveness with an absent and abusive father. And you’ve been right to distance yourself when he has not proven healthy enough to trust with your heart. But doing the hard internal work will make all the difference. You don’t need anyone but “you and God” for that, thank the Lord!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much for your sweet words, Laura. I really appreciate you coming by and encouraging me! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I love Corrie’s story. She’s been such a great example of faith and forgiveness. And yes, God is able to work with whatever we surrender to Him. Just wish it hadn’t taken me so long! 🙂 Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me! Hugs to you!

  • “Part of forgiving him involved, not just making the decision, not just processing my loss and pain, but also giving to him” . . . (*gulp*)

    i’m so challenged . . .

    thank you.

  • messymarriage

    Haha! I’m so grateful for your sweet and vulnerable response, Tanya! It’s kind of a hard one to swallow for me at times still too–forgiving and GIVING to anyone I’m hurt by. But thankfully Christ gives me (us) the motivation and the strength! Yay God!