My father passed away from Parkinsons just a few months before this writing. That was tough. Still is. One striking memory I have from his final moments, was this sense there was nothing left unsaid, no burden or conflict remained between us, I carried no grudge or resentment towards him nor he towards me.
We had a clean relationship into the end. We blessed each other. Some time earlier he said “Craig I’m so proud of you and love you so much” and I essentially said the same back to him and said “I’m so grateful you are my dad.” I meant it. That is the special kind goodbye I hope every single person has the chance to experience, because I know it’s rare.
But it wasn’t always this way. For most of my teenaged and young adult years and adult years, we had tension, and strain, and issue after issue built up in our relationship. He was an imperfect dad and I was surprisingly an imperfect son. We both hurt each other. I carried some of those grudges forward for many years, carving a chasm of distance between the two of us.
My story is not uncommon. You have hurts from your family. Even the best Christian parents and siblings are still sinful, still broken, still imperfect, and still going to leave a mark worthy of at least a few sessions of therapy for every last one of us.
We need to choose, what will we do with the wounds? Pretending they aren’t there is not a strategy. Not only will resentments impact our relationship with our family, they will forever change the potential of who we can become ourselves in Christ. If I hold a grudge, than I am as Anne Lamont refers to eating rat poison and thinking its going to kill the rat. If I retain resentment, I’m literally contaminating the water supply of my own life.
The only way forward is forgiveness. Col. 3:13 “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly think forgiveness requires two people and then wait around until the relationship is ready, which it may never be. Forgiveness only requires one person. You. Me. So HOW do you, how do I, forgive a wound to avoid a lifetime of heart contamination?
- Grieve. You must feel the full weight of what was lost, what was taken, what was wounded, otherwise forgiveness will be too shallow, won’t be thorough all the way to the roots.
- Release. Once grieved, release your sense of entitlement to what was lost. Let go of the right to be vindicated, to be heard, to receive either an apology or an overture towards repair. And certainly let go of the right to get revenge. Those are not our rights we must release those expectations.
- Be filled. Let God and God alone fill the void that was left. That person in your family can’t fill it. And you no longer need them to so let GOD be your fulfillment.
- If possible, relational reconciliation will follow, but not always.
I walked through these steps on my own for years, and the moments I was able to share with my dad, the blessings exchanged on his deathbed were the fruit of the cleansing and healing power of forgiveness and release. You need to know the pain of entering the process of forgiveness was entirely worth it.
My hope and my prayer for you is that you will choose, with any grudge with any resentment for your own sake, to do the hard work of forgiveness and find fulfillment in Christ. And who knows it may just lead to redeeming some relationships in your life.