How Far Does Forgiveness Go?

Q. When I was growing up I was repeatedly mistreated by my step father. The “secret” did not come out until I was on my third marriage and in my 30’s. My mother stayed with him anyway and a schism was created in our family making holidays very stressful times.

I had a breakdown over this and ended up in the hospital undergoing shock treatments last fall. At the hospital my mother was told not to come visit me as I was getting too upset when she came to visit. When I was discharged I emailed her and asked her not to continue to contact me and explained that I was not punishing her and it had nothing to do with forgiveness, but it was just too hard having her in my life. I have forgiven my step father for what he did to me, and I bear no bad feelings for either of them, I just cannot cope with them in my life.

How far does forgiveness go? Do I have to remain in contact with my mother in order to honor God? I want to be in God’s will and not my own but I feel so much better knowing when the phone rings, it won’t be her and I don’t have to worry about her contacting me, it’s like a weight is off my shoulders.

A. Some make the statement that if you haven’t forgotten then you haven’t forgiven, but I disagree. You can’t recall the events that caused the hurt without feeling the pain as well, but you can choose to forgive the people who hurt you.

I also don’t think the Bible commands us to maintain a relationship with someone who has hurt us as seriously as you’ve been hurt. You didn’t mention whether they’ve asked for your forgiveness (or God’s) but your mother’s insistence that you maintain a relationship with her and her husband is meant to relieve their guilt for what happened to you, and that’s not your responsibility.

Prayer and a time of separation will bring healing for you, and you should also pray that God will make reconciliation with your mother possible. But until He does you don’t have to act like nothing has happened.

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